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Sometimes Employees Get What They Deserve

It’s okay to fire someone, as long as you’re not motivated by an illegal reason. Don’t feel bad for the poor employee who has’t worked out.

December 2, 2013

At 10:35 Saturday morning, I was stopped at an intersection on my way home from dropping my daughter off at her band rehearsal. From the passenger seat of the car stopped next to me in the left-turn lane emerged a guy, mid-twenties, clad in Ohio State gear and holding a beer. After he slid out of the open door, he proceeded to start dancing in the middle of the intersection while “Hang on Sloopy” blared from the car’s radio. After a minute or so of this folly, the red light turned to a green arrow, he jumped back on the car, and it spend around the turn with his door still open.

My thoughts of what an ass this guy was quickly turned to cheers for justice as I saw the blue-and-reds of a police car fly past me to pull over the dancing fool. I didn’t stick around to see the end of the story, but my hope is that he missed Ohio State’s last-second victory over Michigan from the confines of the police station’s lockup. 

This guy clearly got what he deserved. No one should feel any sympathy that this early-morning partying clown likely missed the Ohio State / Michigan game. Yet, everyday, employers take pity on poor-performing employees. 

It’s okay to fire an employee. If expectations are communicated and not met, if an employee understands what needs to be done to succeed and misses the mark, or if an employee does not improve after a sufficient number of chances, then it‘s okay to let an employee go. Employers, however manage from a culture of fear. They fear lawsuits, which, in turn, paralyzes employment decisions. As a result, mediocre employees (or worse) keep their jobs. 

As we approach the new year, I’d like employers to resolve to break this chain of mediocrity. It’s okay to fire someone, as long as you’re not motivated by an illegal reason. Communicate your expectations, give your people a fair and reasonable chance to meet them, and, if they fail, cut bait. No one feels bad for the dancing Ohio State fan; don’t feel bad for the poor employee who has’t worked out.

Written by Jon Hyman, a partner in the Labor & Employment group of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz. For more information, contact Hyman at (216) 736-7226 or jth@kjk.com. You can also follow Hyman on Twitter at @jonhyman.