“I will do everything I can to help you be as successful as you want to be…right up to the point I realize I am working harder at it than your are.”

I believe everyone I work with deserves my best. But at times, my desire to help them goes way beyond their desire to improve. Is it time to fire them?

Should They Stay or Go

I developed the following criteria as a result of hanging on to employees for too long.

I always use three checkpoints before I make the final decision to fire someone. If these three criteria are met, it is best for everyone – my company, my team, the individual and myself – to fire them.

Criteria 1: Is It A Pattern?

I always want my people to be trying new things. I want them to find a better way to achieve their goals and deliver on even the most mundane tasks. With that attitude, I must be willing to allow them to make mistakes. I don’t fire people for mistakes.

Mistakes are a great indicator of innovation. Mistakes become an issue when someone repeats those mistakes. When a pattern of negative behavior arises, that is my first checkpoint. We may have a problem because they are not learning from their mistakes.

Criteria 2: Have I Done My Job?

When I see a pattern of behavior, I must first look in the mirror. Have I done my job? Have I given this person what they needed to succeed?

  • Did I provide clear expectations?
  • Did I provide clear coaching after each mistake?
  • Did I demonstrate what good looks like?
  • Did I insure understanding by asking them to repeat back my coaching?

If I cannot answer, “Yes” to these questions, then I may be the problem. I need to be sure I am doing my job, before I blame them for not doing theirs. I don’t fire people for my failures.

But, if I can answer, “Yes”, I know I have fulfilled my promise to do everything I can to help them be as successful as they want to be. The problem is theirs.

Criteria 3: Are They Able To Make The Changes?

Some people may be in jobs that are over their heads. Their skill sets may not match the job requirements. If that is the case, then again I do not fire people for my failures.

I am the one who put that person in position to fail. I need to find them a place where they can succeed. 

I may try to find them a position inside the company that better suits them. If none is available, I will take an active role in helping them find a job somewhere else that is better suited for them.

When To Fire Them:

But if I am dealing with a pattern of behavior, if I have done my job, and if they are able to make the changes I have asked them to make, then there is only one explanation left:

They are unwilling to change.

If they are unwilling to change, why in the world would I keep paying them?

Read a Related Blog:  Coachability:  A Window To Character

The Bottom Line:

If someone is unwilling to change their behaviors, there is absolutely no reason I should be willing to keep paying them their salary. These are the type of people who are a cancer to the organization.

If I am working harder at someone’s growth than they are, I am dealing with a character issue inside that person. When someone is not coachable, when they refuse to change after repeated opportunities and good faith coaching, it is time to cut my losses.

I find that when that person is finally let go, the whole team breathes a sigh of relief. Productivity increases. Morale goes up. Plus, I get the opportunity to start a new person in that role, who will be eager to learn and grow.

Ask yourself, “Am I working harder to make this person a success than he/she is?” If the answer is yes, then it may be time to use these criteria to evaluate your next steps.


Is there a good reason to keep someone around who is unwilling to change?

Dave Anderson is coauthor of the Amazon Best-Seller Becoming a Leader of Character – Six Habits that Make or Break a Leader at Work and at Home with his father General James L. Anderson (USA Retired).

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