Terminating Employment – Knowing When It Is Time to Let A Bad Apple Employee Go

Termination of employment Fresh HR Insights Pty Ltd

Human resource is undoubtedly the most important asset of your company and top managers need to be firmly in control of what is happening on this front. Promoting good performance and harnessing bad is something which must be on the top priority for organizational efficiency. Removing a bad performer is one of the essential but unpleasant jobs for management and it’s always tough to go about it in a worthy manner. Deciding the right timing for this is crucial and critical.

We call employee’s that are not performing or are toxic to a workplace a bad apple ‚ ¨ when you have one in the fruit bowl it soon starts to spoil the rest of the fruit. The same happens in a workplace so you do need to deal with it as a matter of priority.

So how to know when it is the time to let a bad apple employee go?

Watch for these symptoms in a bad apple employee

The most important aspect in terminating employment is to be sure that you are terminating employment of the right bad apple ‚ ¨ sometimes it mat not be who you think it is. Watch for these signs in an employee.

· They Have a Careless Attitude

¬¨‚àë They’re Not Trying to Improve

· They Have a Constant Negative Attitude

¬¨‚àë They’re Only There Because You Don’t Have Someone Else

¬¨‚àë They’re ready for a Promotion You Don’t Have

· They Incite Mutiny about Management Decisions

¬¨‚àë You’re Getting Customer or Vendor Complaints

¬¨‚àë They’re Causing HR Issues


However there might be certain other cases in which your decision when you start looking at terminating employment that may be governed by another set of consideration like these ones:

  • A formerly productive employee has let his or her performance slip.
  • An employee is vocal about dissatisfaction with parts of the job or all of it, affecting overall morale.
  • Organizational changes make an employee’s role unnecessary or redundant.
  • An employee’s skills are not at the level required for the position and you don’t have the time for needed training or believe it will help.
  • An employee abuses company policies and privileges by being excessively late, taking too many vacation days or stealing items from the office.
  • An employee isn’t motivated about developing his or her skills to grow with the company.

A pre – termination questioner for you

Ask yourself these questions in a much unbiased mental state before you go for the final decision:

  • Can the Employee Claim Discrimination?
  • Is the Worker Protected from Termination?
  • Is the Employee Disabled in Any Way?
  • Is It Non-Work Behavior I’m Targeting?
  • Is It Personal?
  • Why Did I Consider Termination?
  • Am I Modeling the Right Behaviors?
  • Where Expectations Too High?
  • Did the Employee Have Adequate Skills and Resources?
  • Can This Employee Improve?
  • Will terminating this Employee Affect Others?
  • Can They Succeed Elsewhere?
  • If this Harsh, unreasonable or unjust

Why is it important to make a timely termination decision?

Timing and exhausting all available options are the most important dimensions. If you are the one deciding to terminate an employee, ask yourself all the above stated questions and tick your checklist of yes or no on each issue. If you get around 80% yes to the negatives then don’t delay. There are many reasons to make it as early as possible:

  • Negativity is contagious and a bad apple in your basket can rot other healthier apples more quickly than you can imagine. Take it off your basket before it’s too late and the behavior spreads.
  • Rewarding or tolerating inefficiency sends a wrong signal across your company. Terminating inefficient ones will only serve the right cause.
  • Bad attitude and social behavior can cost you incredible number of dollars when it comes to losing customers due to bad employees. Rebuilding the confidence can take much more effort and money than hiring a newbie and firing an old inefficient one.

Starting the termination process

Making a mental and formal decision to take out a bad apple is another thing and making it happen in a win-win situation is another. As the person terminating you need to prepare well to deliver your verdict in a befitting manner. Here are a few tips:

  • Document your complaints with plausible evidence like written explanations and warnings to the employee. It will be key to your defense in case of a law suit.
  • Explain the circumstances of firing to the employee and try convincing him to leave voluntarily. If that doesn’t work then take a full responsibility yourself and show him the door in the most courteous manner you can. Last minute harshness can sometimes make things personal and end up in unwanted consequences.


Like everything in Human Resources though there are always other areas to consider and not everything may be what it appears to be. You are highly encouraged to contact a Human Resource Consultant (www.freshhrinsights.com.au) before making any final decisions.



At Fresh HR Insights Pty Ltd we have created an eBook that deals with Performance Management and below is an extract from our eBook – If you would like a copy of the full eBook the cost is $295.00 + GST

Please email admin@freshhrinsights.com.au to express your interest

What can I do to prevent poor performance?

You cannot control or predict the behaviour of your employees, but there are elements that you can put into place in order to minimise the risk of performance issues. The best way for managers to handle poor performance issues is to take action to avoid performance problems before they occur. Such preventive actions include:

  • Communicating clear performance goals and expectations to staff members. (Consider sharing your manager’s performance expectations with your staff.)

If staff members under your supervision do not understand what is expected, it will be very hard, if not impossible, for them to meet those expectations. Providing clear expectations does not necessarily require you to lay out precisely written, detailed instructions on every performance component. Generally, the question you should ask yourself is: Would a reasonable person understand what is expected?‚ π

  • Providing regular and frequent feedback on performance

Feedback, whether given in regularly scheduled meetings or in unscheduled informal discussions, is crucial to ensuring that expectations are understood. Frequent feedback lessens the likelihood that the staff member will be surprised if it becomes necessary to take formal steps to resolve poor performance. Always look for opportunities to confirm that staff members under your supervision understand what is expected.

  • Recognizing good performance, informally and formally

Recognizing good performance is simply another way of clarifying expectations.

  • Making full use of the initial period of the appointment for new staff members

Performance problems often first show up during the initial few weeks or months of employment. This initial period provides a key opportunity for management to address performance problems. Taking action early is always better than waiting. Investing time early is always time well spent.

  • Ensure that staff are making the most of development opportunities

Continuous learning promotes a culture of high performance and personal development and should be strongly encouraged and supported. Managers are expected to advise, support and coach staff members on professional development and to assist staff members with the creation and implementation of their personal development plan. Every staff member is expected to set a minimum target of five days for professional development per year.