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4 steps you need to take before you terminate an employee

“Can’t I just sack them?”   

This is the most common phrase I hear as I go about my employment consultancy business. Termination of employees must be fair, reasonable and have a paper trail of evidence of why termination is the appropriate path for a business owner to take.


Termination of an employee is never clear cut unless of course you throw a chair at your boss and tell him to get stuffed or you might like to voluntarily resign if you vomit on him at the annual Christmas party whilst telling him what a joke he is.  Both true stories!

I have a few pieces of advice that might assist you in the best direction with an employee that demonstrates poor performance.

Managing Poor Performance of Employees before termination

Is it gross misconduct of your employee?

Gross misconduct is all the ugly and extreme behaviour of an employee.     It’s when they steal $50,000 from your business account, or when they assault a fellow worker and criminal charges are placed or when they are grossly negligent and pose a serious risk to the health and safety of themselves or other workers.  These are just to name a few. In these types of situations, termination is more than likely imminent.

Is the employee’s behaviour repairable?

I try and encourage business owners to sit back and consider if an employee’s behaviour is repairable.       What I mean by this is to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this employee for the most part, a good employee?

  • Is this behaviour recent and/or out of character for the employee?

  • Could there be a personal matter that you are unaware of that is driving poor performance?

  • How serious are the infractions?

Reflecting on these things can help bring perspective.   

It helps you determine if an employee has performance issues that put them in the terminable category or if they need some help and management for a period. In my experience, good employees that start performing poorly usually have a personal matter in the background that is driving the behaviour. Often, simply taking the time to talk to them about it can immensely improve the employee’s performance.

Is the poor performance of the employee ongoing?

There are those situations of a poor performing employee that seem to go on and on and never seem to improve or resolve.  The infractions seem not serious enough for immediate termination of employment but not insignificant as to simply let them pass.  

It’s grey. These are the difficult ones and the answer is T.I.M.E.

  • T – TALK
    to the employee and clearly outline your concerns, regardless of how big or small the matter.    They must have a clear understanding of your concerns and you must understand if there is anything that is preventing them from succeeding in the workplace.

    to the employees the timeframe as to when things need to improve by, when the next review meeting will occur and the consequences if there is no change.

  • M – MANAGE the employee.    
    It is at times a boring process, but you need to manage the employee, and this means, meeting, talking notes, and drafting up a letter to send to them after each meeting.     The letter outlines the matters discussed, timeframes and the fact it’s formal warning.

  • E – EXIT the employee.
    You have given the employee three or more written warnings, you have seen no improvement, you have outlined your concerns and the consequences then it’s time to exit them.         

Termination of employment should not be a surprise to employees. I often use these words first mentioned which are to be ‘fair and reasonable’.  It really is about treating others as to how you would like to be treated.

In a probationary period, can I terminate?

Well you could but if you think you are going to terminate someone’s employment with no written documentation as to why and it’s the last day of the probationary period, it’s not going to happen. It’s simply not fair and not reasonable.

During the first three (3) months of an employment period, it is the time that an employee should be performing at their best. They are on a high interested learning curve, have no political alignment in the workplace and are keen to prove their worth. If you have an employee that is not performing during this period, it should ring big alarm bells and you need to meet, manage them and document your discussions.

Again, termination during this period should not be a surprise to the employee and must still have a valid reason.

It is a challenge having employees in the workplace and it is a challenge to bring out the very best in their performance and have them engaged in the same way that you are about your business.        It can happen, it just takes time and the more time you invest in your employees, the better your business will be. Employees are your best business asset!

Call us now on 0411 254 865 or email for an appointment at ahendy@hendyhr.com.au

Leanne O'Sullivan