4 Reasons Why You Should Fire People Faster

There have been occasions in my history as an employer in which I’ve tried to be “the nice guy,” and it was a mistake almost every time.

To be clear – ask anyone! – I am a pretty nice guy, but, there’s such a thing as being too nice.

For example, let’s say you hire somebody who seems awesome, both on paper (resume), online (social channels) and in-person.  You find out over the course of the working relationship, however, that this person is (pick one) incompetent … a bad cultural fit … a weak manager … all-talk-no-action … more interested in tweeting than working … etc.  But because they seemed so awesome in the beginning, you give them more “ramp” to turn things around. You try to coach them – which is absolutely the right thing to do, but (and here’s the tricky part), you just know that this is a journey that will end badly.

The too-nice employer extends the runway but invariably finds that they’ve only extended the pain being inflicted on the organization. What the employer forgets is that everybody else in the organization, a.k.a. “the people who fit well and work their asses off,” also know that the “bad fit” isn’t going to work out, and they consider the employer a bit of a weak fool in this case.  So that’s a double-whammy: shoddy work performance on the part of the troubled employee (which affects clients!) is compounded by the cultural erosion caused by the employer’s overt niceness.

It’s actually a triple-whammy: extending the runway for the troubled employee is biting into the time they should be using to find a gig where they could be a genuine star.

No, wait, that makes this a quadruple-whammy, because that employee – once you’ve finally rid yourself of them – rarely winds up appreciating your niceness; they often wind up being the most poisonous to your company’s reputation behind-the-scenes.

Ultimately it’s all about who you want with you on the bus.  Jim Collins said it well in his classic, Good to Great:

…Good-to-great leaders understand three simple truths.

First, if you begin with “who,” you can more easily adapt to a fast-changing world. If people get on your bus because of where they think it’s going, you’ll be in trouble when you get 10 miles down the road and discover that you need to change direction because the world has changed. But if people board the bus principally because of all the other great people on the bus, you’ll be much faster and smarter in responding to changing conditions.

Second, if you have the right people on your bus, you don’t need to worry about motivating them. The right people are self-motivated: Nothing beats being part of a team that is expected to produce great results.

And third, if you have the wrong people on the bus, nothing else matters. You may be headed in the right direction, but you still won’t achieve greatness. Great vision with mediocre people still produces mediocre results.

If you are an employer or manager, you probably had an under-performing colleague’s face pop into your head as you read this post. You might want to bookmark this one: let it give you the inner strength you need to put “performance and culture” ahead of “nice.”

Posted on: May 28, 2012 at 8:59 am By Todd Defren
9 Responses to “4 Reasons Why You Should Fire People Faster”


  • InggridChan says:

    Well yeah it’s true when the employers always be a nice guy, the employee will be arbitrary to work. Thing to do is keep motivating them and embed company vision and mission to the employee so that they can keep focus on work.

  • brigitte grisanti says:

    Hi! I have dealt with this problem many times in the past. I use to run a restaurant and they would come in with a glowing resume and graduated from culinary school and be very incompetent. I had one come to me and ask me how to poach an egg. I like people I can train and mold into a good employee.

    Briggite Grisanti

  • Courtney List says:

    This post enlightened me on how to take charge and be assertive in the right ways. I took this post and applied it to me as an intern and employee working in the industry or for a clothing company. Like you said, stay self-motivated and engross yourself into the culture of your work. This post also taught me to take internships as an opportunity to see where I fit in. I don’t want to wind up somewhere I have no desire to work or in an environment I don’t mesh with.

  • Mithun says:

    Nice article and thanks for the wonderful link(Good to Great).

  • Kaitlin says:

    Very interesting post! I especially like Jim Collins’ analogy. I am curious though, how long do you think you can coach someone before it’s time to let them go?

  • Jamie says:

    We have just started to learn this as well. It’s nice to know we are not alone.

  • This has been the biggest mistake of my professional career running businesses. I regret not parting ways sooner, not only for me, but for them. An ugly but very accurate topic.

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