7 Employees You Should Fire Now

It's a crazy competitive world out there--you can't afford to have employees who aren't cutting it.

  • Share
  • Read Later


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources, and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

Some months ago, Apple and Microsoft each parted ways with a high-profile senior executives: iOS software chief Scott Forstall and Windows president Steven Sinofsky.

The moves were just weeks apart and the stories were strangely similar: two remarkably effective and talented executives who were simply unmanageable. They were so chronically abrasive and divisive that they were more trouble than they were worth.

Of course there’s more than one side to every story. And while we may not be privy to all the specifics, one thing’s for sure. Those decisions were some of the toughest ones the CEOs ever had to make. After all, talent like that doesn’t grow on trees. Nevertheless, it had to be done. They had to go.

It takes all kinds to run a company but a few bad apples can definitely spoil organizational effectiveness in a hurry. And these days, companies just can’t afford to keep those kinds of people around. The longer you wait, the more damage they do.

Over the years I’ve worked with just about every type of employee you can think of and, in my experience, there are more or less seven kinds of people you simply have to get rid of, no ifs ands or buts, and sooner rather than later.

1. They’re a Troublemaker. With all of our issues and dysfunctions, I sometimes wonder how anything gets done at all. Still, we manage the best we can. And when employees create more problems than they’re worth, when the damage they do to the organization weighs more heavily than their achievements, then it’s time to cut them loose.

2. They Overpromise and Underdeliver. Some people have such overly inflated self-images that they either think they can do anything or crave the attention they get by making big boastful promises. But when their egos consistently write checks their capabilities can’t cash, that’s a real problem that’s not likely to be resolvable without a good shrink.

3. They Act Out With Customers. I don’t care if you have a small business or work at a Fortune 500 company, customers are hard to gain and easy to lose. The one thing you don’t need is an employee who works with customers and somehow doesn’t get that business is about winning and keeping customers, not him and his bad attitude.

4. They Can’t or Won’t Do the Job. You hire and pay people to do a job. Your job is to be clear about what that entails and give them the tools and training they need to get the job done. Their job is then to do it. If they either can’t or won’t after a few chances, then you’ve probably given them one chance too many.

5. They Flake. Some people look the part but, when push comes to shove, you can’t count on them to get the job done or even to show up on a regular basis. Whatever the specifics, you can never tell when they’re going to flake and you just can’t trust them. Life is too short to have employees like that.

6. They’re Entitled. Some people are more thin-skinned, litigious, and entitled than they have any right to be. Half their mind is on the job and the other half is just waiting for someone to slip up so they can whine and complain and maybe even threaten litigation. Don’t give in to that kind of behavior. Cut them loose. They might throw a fit and you might get sued, but they can only do it once, and then you’re rid of them for good.

7. They Ignore the Rules. Whatever the rules of conduct are for your company and its culture, you’ve got to uphold them fairly and consistently across the board. Whether an employee was insubordinate to her boss or a top executive lies about something material on his resume, if it happened and it breaks the rules, you should walk them out the door.

People are always complaining about how stressful their job is but, in my experience, there’s nothing more stressful than having to deal with employees who aren’t cutting it and drag down the whole organization. Quit thinking about it and just get rid of them. You’ll sleep better at night–and so will the rest of your team.

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, an executive coach, and a former senior executive of the technology industry. He’s managing partner of Invisor Consulting, a Silicon Valley-based strategy consulting firm. Contact Tobak; follow him on Facebook,Twitter, or LinkedIn@SteveTobak
Read More on Inc.com:

52 comments
MuricanBob
MuricanBob

7 employees you should fire now

1-7: Liberals

dawgGoodie
dawgGoodie

A friend of mine, whose company went public in June has challenges, of course. A few years ago, I asked him what his biggest challenge was and of course, as we all know, the answer was "people". I think that one out of six people hired perform beyond expectations. Two perform well enough. And one creates more wake than they are worth. These in the last group are technically psychopathic (I mean in the formal sense.) They are smart, they take on responsibility, the perform and then they use the power they hold. 

dawgGoodie
dawgGoodie

When I was lucky enough to be exposed to (a little) Jim Barksdale (FedEX/Netscape, etc.), I appreciated the power of how he said the obvious in a few words. This article presents what seems to the be obvious. Yet, this is all obvious after it is presented; it is the distillation of a lot experience and is expressed in only a few words. Mr. Tobak, you might reduce things to simple ideas which might seem overly simplistic, but I recognize and appreciate the importance behind your points. 

tricia.b.west
tricia.b.west

Maybe it's not the employee. Maybe it's the employer. Maybe the mistreated employee should look for a new job. Lack of productivity and happiness can often just come from a bad work environment. 

DoodleBug
DoodleBug

Actually - it can all come down to this > "they are a liability"...

But then the question is, who is deeming them this? Is it the gabby co-workers that dislike them? Or is it the supervisor that apparently does not know how to give the employee their expectations and work with them until the get it right?

Most often the people in your list only get away with this because they are allowed to and as such they worsen - and the others act out in accordance trying to show their displeasure.

Two sets of rules in the work place is incorrect - managers/supervisors and employees should have the same standards - same rules.

GusFring1
GusFring1

For the last ten years my wife and I , after many years of management and dealing with employees and their senses of entitlement, "me, me" attitudes and horrendous work ethic etc., own and operate a hugely profitable business not having to have a single direct employee. Neither of us would ever go back to the corporate world. Of the things I miss least, employees are right up there. Life is good.

SmoothEdward1
SmoothEdward1

Be nice if upper management was held to the same standards. Unfortunately, as long as their department, division, etc. are making money, they get to hang around way too long before the company finally admits he/she is a problem. These people often have negotiated separation packages that make it costly to get rid of them.

John
John

In every department there is one person who knows everything that is going on.  For your own preservation, this person should be fired immediately.

Rost2
Rost2

Now, let's think about public sector employees.

JohnnyPark
JohnnyPark

I can think of a single employee who shared all of these characteristics: Michael Scott. And he ran the most successful branch of Dunder Mifflin!

MelanieWright
MelanieWright

Or, maybe we should stop making it sound like the employees are the ones who are the problem (there is always a bad apple or two in the bunch, but I am talking about the grand majority...), and make managers actually manage. The reason why most employees have troubles in the workplace is that managers do not want to take the time to do their job and make sure that their processes allow for work to be done efficiently and easily by their employees. Instead, they are lazy, and put so much effort in to making excuses, blaming employees, hiring/firing, destroying lives, etc. I've been a manager of several people for very technical processes. If you take the little bit of extra time to make sure that every employee can easily do their job, and there is adequate training information for them, and you appoint a facilitator to be sure any questions can be answered quickly, there is never a big problem. If you are saying that there is too much work, that there is such a big workload that there is more than your employees can handle, that just means you are a bad manager and cannot make efficient processes.

chrisban35
chrisban35

Well thank God you're writing articles and NOT some manager somewhere. Other than the first common sense remarks you wrote, in the first few examples the 7th one is not true! I knew if I kept reading down the line I would run into some "pragmatic" cookie cutting corporate policies that would not fit the bill...

I quote your words: "7. They Ignore the Rules." -  One of the most AMAZING things about prema-donna's is that 99% of them go against the grain of policy! and the other AMAZING thing is how companies don't understand that most performers go against the grain of policies because of the weight, bureaucracy and idiocy that most policies inflict on performance! 

So you don't just FIRE an employee because he bucks the system. It's funny, corporate always asks their people to perform, and then when someone does, they risk being fired over bringing change to the pathetically laden policy driven systems. Even more pathetic, is most of the time, these policy changers, performers aren't rewarded, but instead sent through the ringer. 

WAKE UP business world! Those we idolize spend the majority of their time "OUTSIDE" the box, yet as managers, executives and boards, we keep trying to "whip" people to jump back IN the box!! Those two contradictory elements just don't make for a high performing team! It's funny, a new study reveals that larger corporations are now seeking out people with entrepreneurial type characteristics,  because of their self-motivated work ethics, and ability to think outside the box. But during interview and initiation into the company, what's the first thing they get POUNDED With? POLICIES....  What's the old famous cliche? "Too big to get out of their own way".... 

55Wasatcher
55Wasatcher

Well, this means that every member of the House and Senate should be fired because every one of those "reasons" applies to all of them!  

LenSimpson
LenSimpson

Protecting bad apples has always been the biggest fault of  trade unions & has led to the destruction of  some large institutions.

WilliamBarnes
WilliamBarnes

"You're a troublemaker". I rail against anything wrong, be it by some high and mighty power hungry self righteous manager who, himself, reading this lousy article, cinches him/herself up higher on their ego, or somebody who wants to take advantage over somebody else's good nature or somebody who thinks he can saddle and ride his employees just because he has the higher hand. How many managers themselves are (or should be) fired for taking articles like this seriously are astronomic. Get real. You have to be someone who can be looked up to as having none of these qualites to make use this article. Otherwise, you're going to put your neck in a noose you may have trouble withdrawing from. Are there any of us who comply to these really not so lofty standards?

NotNicole
NotNicole

Mohan 37,

The author of this article values conformity over performance and originality. And it's pretty obvious you do too. It's ironic that he follows the Silicon Valley CEOs and tries to learn from them because they are narcissistic and purpose driven; not people you would want to have under you.

mohan37
mohan37

Hah, upon reading these comments, I've never seen a bigger group of people complaining about advice they'll never be in a position to use.

mohan37
mohan37

Great article. Thoughts on what to do in volunteer organizations? You ate more likely to be in a "take what you can get" situation. And, no one is paid, so that seems to make it a lot harder to be strict about expectations and accomplishments

NotNicole
NotNicole

This article has presented some of the most petty, snide, politic- fueling, spurious reasons to deprive an individual of a paycheck. It would take a real corporate drone, and unoriginal thinker to write something like this. Obviously the employees he let go weren't very high up on the corporate ladder.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

Most of these are evidence that managers are not doing their jobs.  No one is born "entitled".  They have learned what they can get away with.  People that "act out with customers", ignore their jobs, etc. should be brought into the office, told what they are doing wrong, and given a chance to improve.  Some will improve temporarily, some more so, some less but the reason we have managers is to keep the workers on target.   High performers usually get more slack because they are more valuable.  It's life.

ferminadaza988
ferminadaza988

All of the seven failings are essentially the same, though each employs it's own timeworn cliche. Good read? I think not, unless good read suddenly equates tripe

kroe1
kroe1

An entitled attitude does not get u too far in the job. You will soon be found out ( by ur complaining) and out the door. Sad way to go and so soon. Good read Steve. I thought it was just me with that problem. Glad to know otherwise. Where can u get help for these deficiencies?

twominutes
twominutes

It was written for controversy over content, but it really doesn't succeed at either.

Haven't seen anything else from the author but wouldn't seek it based on this.


denversolo
denversolo

You would be hard pressed to find employees that don't fit one of the seven.  Every person I work with including me fits one of the 7 on this list. The 3 comments before mine fit one of the 7. Congratulations, you have described 7 different types of generic people.  So should my GM run around and fire his entire work force to keep the company productive? Including himself?

johanr1234
johanr1234

Steve Tobak is a moron. And the only thing that needs to be fired is your relationship with whatever Inc.com is. This is the most moronic thing I've ever read on this site, and this is the reason there are so many idiots running corp america. I could list all the ways why...like the lack of accounting for creatives, or the fact that the majority of rule breakers are in the top 10% of persons with the highest IQs, but I won't. I'll just let you keep looking like the imbeciles you are for allowing this person to post this unfounded story on your otherwise trustworthy sitre.

MuricanBob
MuricanBob

All NObamers fault!!!!! Bush 2016!!!! MURICA

DoodleBug
DoodleBug

@MelanieWright The problem is most of the managers do not either have or do not have current - experience in the fields of the employees they are supervising.

elyse
elyse

@chrisban35  I didn't read that section the way you did.  He clearly spoke of examples like insubordination and lying.  As an employer of many, I LOVE creative people who think outside the box, but there are rules of conduct in a workplace....don't lie, be respectful, show up to work on time etc.

chrisban35
chrisban35

Someone just privately emailed me and asked, WHO do we idolize who thinks constantly outside the box? OK, you want examples.... Sir Richard, Branson, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Mark Zuckerberg, Carlos Slim, Pierre Omidyar-ebay founder, Larry Page-Google founder, and the list just goes on and on... None of the above mentioned operated with practical corporate principles or commonality associated with practical business thought process. Instead, they had a vision, a passion and they did not let any red tape or economists hold them back! All examples of people who made their wealth thinking outside the box. 

obadiahlynch
obadiahlynch

Nonsense. Unions try to ensure that the labor contract is followed -- nothing more. If your contract allows for firing bad apples (and if it doesn't, you're lousy at negotiating contracts) then you can fire bad apples.

Rost2
Rost2

@NotNicole Not true. The author cares about everybody's bussiness.

mohan37
mohan37

This comment has presented one of the clearest pictures I've seen of someone I'd never hire.

RoccoJohnson
RoccoJohnson

@johanr1234 

So "creatives" get their own special rules? And breaking the rules is tolerable if its done by a person with a high IQ? Please enlighten us as to your vast body of success and achievement using the kind of employees this list denigrates?


mohan37
mohan37

@elyse @chrisban35 agreed.  most of these comments are written by defensive employees who have totally misinterpreted the points,  not by people in hiring positions who deal with this stuff every day.

DoodleBug
DoodleBug

@chrisban35 But see this is the thing. There are those that think outside the box because they sincerely want to do what they are doing - for all of the right reasons. Then there are the ones that will borrow parts of others ideas to formulate what they feel to be "outside the box thinking" but mainly... for the right to stamp their name on it.

rl8675309
rl8675309

@chrisban35

And all the entrepreneurs you’ve listed would indeed have made lousy employees. If you WORK for one of the companies owned by these people your job is to follow their rules and make THEM money. Want to act out, be unconventional, do your own thing, make your own rules, be a pain in the ass, then start your own company and be like Steve Jobs!

lillith919
lillith919

@chrisban35  

i was once turned down for a position as supervisor for a elderly care facility managed by Christian Charities  b/c i "think outside the box".   exactly how the interviewer said it about 18 years ago.  who knew it would serve me better to NOT have been hired, but OUCH that stung at the time. 

LenSimpson
LenSimpson

@obadiahlynch 

 I was an IAM member for  almost 20 years & watched it's greed &  protection of deadbeats run Eastern Air lines right into the ground , along with National & PanAm at the same time.

NotNicole
NotNicole

@Rost2 @NotNicole I can assume that he wanted to this article to apply to everybody-- that's why he made it so overbroad. I was just saying that I see some hypocrisy in how Tobak prizes innovation, creativity and whatever else is the SV buzzword of the day, yet he writes that employers should expect employees to be faithful rule following conformists. The takeaway: HR managers should hire milk-toast employees incapable of any independent thought and fire them capriciously, even if it means a lawsuit.

NotNicole
NotNicole

@mohan37 I doubt  that you are in a position to hire.This is on the internet and you can make up anything you want. 

NotNicole
NotNicole

@mohan37 @elyse @chrisban35 I actually don't care if you are in a hiring position. I really just wanted to say that the article was really off base. His categories were too broad: every single person I know of, myself included fit into one of is categories. You are not going to find the perfect employee because that person doesn't exist.

LenSimpson
LenSimpson

@obadiahlynch  dreamer !   I was THERE ! both in union & management. escaped into a 

new biz of my own just before the crash.

obadiahlynch
obadiahlynch

Naaah. The union doesn't set prices, schedules, or anything. If they did (which I seriously doubt they did) then management was lousy at negotiating contracts, and if they were that lousy at negotiating a labor contract they were certainly lousy at negotiating all their other ones too.

All the union should be doing is protecting employees from capricious actions, and ensuring the labor contract is followed, and negotiating labor contracts.

NotNicole
NotNicole

@mohan37 If I was the hiring manager for Hope Church in Detroit, I would be regretting my decision to hire you.

NotNicole
NotNicole

@mohan37 Your name is Mohan Karulkar. You work for a church in Detroit. You write a blog and you have a twitter account. You write about saying things you regret. A personal attack on an anonymous internet user, who can Google you and find your name is pretty stupid.

NotNicole
NotNicole

@mohan37 I take that back. You are in a position to hire...but I don't think you should be. A little power in the hands of a megalomaniac is a dangerous thing.

mohan37
mohan37

@NotNicole @mohan37 You presume too much.  I work with people in several capacities, some paid and some not.  And you've proven my point. Best of luck with that attitude.