When is the Right Time to Fire vs Coach a Team Member?

Leadership and Coaching in the Workplace

First, the good news: If you have an employee that’s struggling to do the job, you don’t have to fire them. There’s another option; You can also coach them into improvement. But the bad news is it can be as risky to fire as it can be to take a chance on coaching an employee who should probably be fired. When is the right time to fire someone? When is it better to coach them instead?

Do This Before Coaching or Firing

Don’t do anything, whether it’s coaching or something harsher before you have your processes in order. Anything less and you put yourself at risk. Talk the time to write down a process that progresses gradually to termination. Also list out what instances would constitute an immediate firing.

Before doing anything, ask yourself some hard questions, such as:

  • How did you communicate policies and responsibilities to the employee?
  • Is this a problem with the employee that has progressed or is it something new?
  • What kind of feedback has the employee been given to date?

All of these questions will help you decide whether coaching or termination is the right approach.

When Should You Offer Coaching to an Employee?

Coaching is an educational process that shows the employee you value them by providing support and encouragement. It gives the employee a chance to improve—if they want to and can. Coaching can take on a number of areas where the employee is failing:

  • Review of tasks or ways to contribute to the team more effectively.
  • Teach a specific skill.
  • Understand performance expectations.
  • Discuss behavioral issues (such as chronic lateness).

If you think the employee would benefit from any of these approaches, then coaching may be the best approach to help save the employee.

Why is Termination Sometimes the Right Option?

If you’ve written down your approach to employee discipline and shared it with them, then the steps toward termination are clear. Termination should be a natural progression from the process of written or verbal warnings where no improvement is shown. Termination should be a clear step as long as you:

  • Established and communicated employment standards to the employee.
  • You have reliable evidence that the employee has not improved, even after coaching has occurred.
  • The employee understands why their performance is unacceptable.
  • You’ve listened to the employee to understand their viewpoint.

Termination on the spot should be rare. An investigation should always occur, and carefully documented should show evidence of the employee’s poor behavior or performance. The process of terminating or coaching an employee should happen with a great deal of care; failing to do so could cost you a potential lawsuit for unfair hiring/firing practices later on. As part of your termination policy, you should also have a written plan for:

  • Having work-related equipment returned—and what you’ll do if it isn’t.
  • Obtaining any passwords.
  • Determining where the final pay should be sent.
  • COBRA and retirement plan options.

Leadership brings responsibility, including when and how to discipline employees up to termination. PrideStaff works closely with our employer-clients to ensure they have the kind of employees where termination isn’t an option. Find out how we can help your business by calling on us today.