How Many Warnings Before You Should Fire Someone

2 male employees having a disagreement in a warehouse

It’s a frustrating situation. You have one team member who always falls behind or who always delivers low-quality work. You’ve tried talking to them, but it hasn’t helped. How long until you should consider an extreme approach? In other words, how many warnings should you give before you fire someone?

Making the right choice represents a major responsibility. Letting someone go means taking away their livelihood. At the same time, you can’t let a terrible employee hold back the rest of the company.

You need to weigh the decision carefully. There are steps you can take that will increase your chances of making the optimal decision. Here are some tips to determine how many warnings you should give before you fire someone.

Effectively Communicate Employee Behavior Standards

In part, determining the right number of warnings depends on the situation. Some circumstances require a zero-tolerance approach. This includes almost any incident involving violence or harassment.

Since crossing these lines can lead to immediate consequences, it’s important to lay out the policies ahead of time. Every employee should know the appropriate standards of behavior. That way, you’ll be justified to act in situations that essentially represent zero-warning events.

Clearly explain your policies during the onboarding process. This shouldn’t end the conversation, however. Also, present routine reminders to make sure everyone is on the same page. This ongoing communication will hopefully act as all the warnings your employees need.

Carefully Evaluate the Situation

When a worker has fallen short of expectations, you need to evaluate the situation. Fundamentally, you have to weigh the cost of improving your current employee versus the possibility of replacing them. You can break this down into three basic questions:

  1. Can additional training and guidance salvage the situation?
  2. How difficult would it be to hire a replacement or get by without the employee?
  3. Does the employee bring other qualities to the table (like leadership, teamwork, etc.)?

For issues completely related to performance, a retraining program can often fix the problem. Even in cases where an employee’s output continues to lag, you need to consider your options. If you aren’t likely to find a better worker in the open market, there is little point to roiling your team.

At the same time, you need to look at the full picture. An employee who falls short in some categories might excel at others. Part of your job as a manager involves setting your workers up for success. Moving the employee to a new role might maximize their value.

Launch a Performance Improvement Plan

For performance-related issues, an improvement plan is usually your best first option. Obviously, you shouldn’t ignore a failed project or an unimpressive showing over a short period of time. However, these circumstances don’t necessarily mean you should immediately fire an employee.

Instead, poor performance should spark a formal process of improvement. Here are some components to include:

Have Clear Performance Guidelines: Make sure employees know what’s expected of them. This way, they will understand what metrics to reach and can take action on their own to meet these targets.

Create a Transparent Process: Once you begin an improvement plan, detail a step-by-step procedure. Layout a timeline and establish concrete goals.

Give Formal Performance Reviews: Informal feedback is useful. But in a situation where termination is a possibility, you should proceed more systematically. This will avoid confusion and miscommunication.

Keep Appropriate Documentation: Maintain a written record of every step of the process. You can sidestep future legal hassles with the appropriate documentation. This will also ensure that the situation is handled as carefully and thoughtfully as possible.

Build the Best Possible Team

If you are looking to upgrade your team, LaborMAX, a top staffing agency in Tacoma and other key cities, can help. They can find you the perfect employees to improve your performance.

Contact LaborMAX Staffing today to learn more.