• Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Terry Weaver and his colleagues at the Chief Executive Boards International have little patience for “toxic employees.”

The group normally is quick to encourage members to fire an employee whose presence is a “cancer” on the company, said Weaver, who serves as CEO of the organization that provides ideas and advice to business owners and leaders.

“We make a distinction between toxic employees and lousy employees,” said Weaver, the group’s CEO. “Poor performers are a whole different breed.”

Weaver defines a toxic employee as someone who breeds discontent, causes problems for customers, colleagues and managers and who lacks ethics.

There’s no way to rehabilitate these types of workers, he said.

“You can’t fix them,” he said. “You’ve got to fire them.”

Taking that step is often difficult. But here are 10 tips for businesses looking to dismiss a toxic employee.

1. Documentation. Weaver recommends keeping notes on the employee’s indiscretions and putting disciplinary actions in a letter that’s sent to the employee.

2. Be proactive. Supervisors often wait too long to bring problem employees to the attention of the HR department or company leaders, according to Deborah Keary, vice president of human resources for the Society for Human Resource Management.

“Managers put up with a lot before having a difficult conversation with a person,” she said.

3. Be clear about violations. When you’re documenting issues in writing, Keary said to make sure the notations in the person’s file reflect how the behaviors violate the company’s code of conduct.

“Be really specific,” she said.

4. Follow company policy. If company policy dictates that managers work with employees to change their behaviors, managers need to move forward with a work-improvement plan, Keary said.

5. Provide a detailed plan. If you create an improvement plan, make sure it clearly spells out what an employee needs to do to improve performance and provide a clear timeline. Also, make sure to address potential consequences of failing to meet the plan’s guidelines.

6. Review your actions. Keary recommends managers recap meetings and conversations with the employee in writing.

“Emails are a good way to follow up on a disciplinary discussion,” she said.

7. Maintain contact. A manager who has given an employee an improvement plan needs to have regular contact with the person during the time that the plan is active, Keary said.

8. Think of company’s best interests. If an employee truly is toxic, it’s worth the gamble to fire them, Weaver said. The company is going to be better without that person.

“In most cases, the person is costing you so much more than you realize,” he said. “It’s still in your best interest to just get on with it.”

9. Get them out of the office. Walk them out of the building right after the conversation. Don’t keep them around to “hand off” things because they’ll poison the well further.

Tell them: “Today’s your last day. I’ll help you pick up the things you need to take home with you. I’ll meet you back here after hours to clean out your desk, take down your pictures, etc.,” Weaver said.

10. Do it early in the week. You don’t want them on the phone with other employees on Saturday and Sunday, creating a scenario that will require a full-scale damage control plan on Monday. Instead, Weaver said to terminate on Mondays or Tuesdays to allow time for everything to settle down before the weekend.


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