I Had to Fire an Employee Today

I Had to Fire an Employee TodayI had to fire an employee today.

I’ve let a number of people go over the years and it’s never something anyone enjoys… not me as the manager and certainly not the employee.

But, it had to be done.  His performance was definitely sub-par and it was affecting relationships with customers and hurting morale with good employees.

Here’s the thing, though – it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter that it went as good as it could go.  It doesn’t matter that he knew it was coming.  It doesn’t matter that we gave him a decent severance.

Unless you’re made of stone, it’s just horrible to have to sit down with a good person, completely disrupt their life, and cause them some amount of turmoil.

We’re talking about a nice guy with a wife (thank God no kids!) who just wasn’t cut out to work in the IT industry.


The first time I had to fire an employee

I Had to Fire an Employee Today - The first time I had to fire an employeeMy last job decades ago was as a retail manager at a large discount chain.  Letting people go was, unfortunately, a little more of a routine task.

Most of the problems were with kids who were just working as part-time employees and didn’t really care about their employment or performance.

Then, of course, you’d have the employees caught stealing or other significant issues.

The first time I had to fire an employee was when loss prevention had found out that a cashier had lied on her application.  It turns out she had previously been convicted of a felony and said otherwise on the app.  That was grounds for dismissal at the company that employed me.

It wasn’t pretty.

A fellow manager and I called her back to the office to talk to her.  It was the holiday season and before we could even get the ball rolling, she started thanking us for the job and presented a small thank-you gift to us… ouch!

Obviously, she was devastated.  She understood why her employment was being terminated, but that doesn’t make it any easier.  She was crying as she left and the other manager and I felt like we were the worst people in the world.

But, here’s the problem – it was our job to do this.  When you’re not the head chief, you don’t get to make the policies.

I was only in retail for about five years and only a couple of which were as management, but I was probably still involved in terminating about a dozen employees.


The employee I fired today

I Had to Fire an Employee Today - The employee I fired todayMy career in IT is a little different.  The longevity of most employees at this company is truly amazing.  I’ve been there almost twenty years and still am a good decade behind a number of folks there.

Almost all the employees have made solid careers here and seem to enjoy their work for the most part.

Why do people stick around so long here?

I’m not entirely sure, but I will say that most everyone gets along well with each other to the point where it’s like one big dysfunctional family of close to 50 people.

Occasionally, though, we still have a bad apple at the company.  I’ve only had to fire an employee every handful of years or so while here and almost all of those have been recent hires who don’t quite turn out like their résumé or interview.

The firing I just did though was an employee who had been around a little over a year and a half.

We had brought him over from another department in the company about a year ago and did our best to help him grow into a successful engineer in the company.

Nevertheless, he lagged behind everyone else and struggled to learn and develop his skills.  He even had problems with the routine daily tasks he needed to do.

The other employees needed to check over his work every day because his results always seemed to be wrong.  This made his co-workers start to become sick of it as well.  They had to pick up the slack for him in addition to their own work.

His direct supervisor and I had written him up a couple times previously, so the expectations were definitely clear.

The worst thing you can do is nothing, though, and this was well overdue.

We brought him in and I explained to him that we were terminating his employment with the company due to his job performance.  His supervisor reviewed some of the specifics of the problem and then I went through explaining the severance we had decided to offer and other details regarding his termination.

He didn’t have much to say and the whole process lasted about 5 minutes.  He said he understood and we even shook hands at the end.  For such a miserable task, it could not have gone any smoother.

So why did I still feel like #$% when it was done?

It’s because now I really understand the magnitude of this short, yet life-changing, duty.


I’m getting too old for this!

I Had to Fire an Employee Today - Freedom

Unfortunately, part of my job in management is to fire an employee who isn’t doing their job.  Do I like it?  Obviously not, but it’s one of those things that just has to be done in my position in the company.

However, I’m not as young as I used to be and I’ve started to realize even more just how much this could truly affect someone’s life.

Getting a new job is sometimes a very difficult endeavor for many people.  I’ve always had a path in my life and got to decide when I wanted to leave a company and move onto another.  That’s not the case for everyone and many people live paycheck-to-paycheck making it even harder.

I don’t want to be the guy that forces someone to have to worry about how they’re going to pay their mortgage or feed their kids.  At the same time, I’m not going to give up my position as a manager at my company or go elsewhere.  This is the last W2 job I plan to ever have.

So what’s the answer?

The only real answer is to get out of the rat race.

We’re not meant to work day in and day out doing something we’re not excited about until we’re old.  Life is meant to be enjoyed and spent with the ones you love.

Having to fire an employee today makes me even more determined to reach financial independence sooner than later.  I really hope that my trip to Panama will be successful.  If it is, that could be a true game-changer and would allow me to reach financial independence even sooner due to the lower cost of living.

Have you ever had to fire an employee?  If so, how’d it go?


Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

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19 thoughts on “I Had to Fire an Employee Today”

  1. I’ve never had to fire anyone (thank goodness!) But I was on the other end at my last job. Fortunately for me it was a temporary position where the primary goal was to learn. Well, I learned real quick that I wasn’t good at the job and it wasn’t something I was interested in. I stuck it out, but I was basically useless, which made me feel awful. My coworker went around to people and said I should be fired for being so bad. Thankfully people knew that was crap and I reported her to HR. Now I’m in a new job that I love and am doing much better. Still, I can’t wait to end my W-2 career 🙂

    1. That’s great that you found a new job you love, Gwen! Hopefully the employee I had to let go will find a new job that he likes better as well.

      Congrats on your two years for your blog, btw! 🙂 Looks like we started around the same time – mine will be two years in the beginning of May.

      — Jim

  2. That’s rough, Jim. Don’t envy that duty at all, but in the end the employee being terminated is the one who should feel the worse. Not holding up their responsibilities as an employee is what got them into that position. Don’t let it bother you too much! Easy saying that being someone who’s never had to fire anyone…

    1. Haha, it’s definitely not something easy to do, but you are right that, at least in this case, the responsibility falls on the employee. Regardless, I hope to not have to do many more (if any) of these before I FIRE.

      — Jim

  3. In my 28-year career I probably fired a handful of people personally and had many others fired by subordinates.

    It always stinks and never gets better.

    Even the ones who deserve it (like those who steal) are tough, though they are easier because the person is a crook.

    Hopefully, you won’t have to do much more of it.

    1. Those who deserve it certainly make it a little easier, but it still tends to be uncomfortable (at least for me) to go through. Sorry you’ve had to go through these as well!

      — Jim

  4. In my 3 year period as a manager I had one employee that I managed to coach and reposition back from the brink, but no full on firings. It was hard enough to have the if you don’t clean up you’ll be shifted out type of speech. Sadly I think his new manager has stopped his coaching and redirected him into the area that was a poor fit. I suspect he may end up losing his job afterall….

    The coaching part though is what would help me sleep at night. Making someone know up front and helping them to adapt if they are struggling in my mind puts the situation in the employees control. Its the surprise firings, layoffs, and legal issues which I haven’t had to deal with that would be rough.

    1. That’s cool that your employer gives you the opportunity to coach employees versus just dropping them. I actually have another employee that we’re trying to do the same with and I hope we can get him back on track because the other options sucks for everyone.

      — Jim

  5. Hi Jim. I’ve been on both sides of that conversation in my career, and I can agree that it’s not fun to send employees packing. You know what though? Getting fired feels 10 times worse.

    I really hope you tried to work with the person to improve their performance to your satisfaction. The worst kinds of firings are those without warning for the employee.

    While I have seen people that actually didn’t care if they were fired, the vast majority do care very deeply. Getting fired is probably one of the worst days of their life.

    I hope they really deserved it.

    1. If getting fired feels 10 times worse, that makes me feel even worse for the guy that we had to do this to! I’m sorry you’ve had to be on both sides of this kind of scenario.

      We definitely spent time trying to help him to improve, but honestly, he’s really not cut out for this line of work. This wasn’t just a sit-down and let him go. It was the result of sitting down with him a handful of times over several months and going over what specifically needed to be done. He just couldn’t do it.

      — Jim

  6. Hi Jim! Randomly found your blog today and love it!…

    I’ve had to fire several people during my career and it’s never fun. The very first time I fired someone, I was in tears after he left the office. I held it in until he left. He had a wife who made half his salary and kids. Unfortunately, like the fellow you had to fire, he wasn’t living up to company expectations. His performance was the bottom of the office by far. I was given the order to fire him. I coached him up and even did parts of his job with him. Showed him how to perfectly do the daily routine. In the end, it just wasn’t for him. Even with both of us knowing this, it didn’t make it any easier. I did put forth the extra effort and contacted a friend of mine at another company to get him a position.

    Since that first experience, my skin has gotten much thicker. Even the ones who “deserve” to get fired aren’t easy. However, I still will not stand for unjust firings in a workplace. I recently resigned from a management position due to unfair work practices by the big wigs executives running the company. They came out with a metric that would literally cause me to fire 1/4 of my team. Even the top performers. I brought my concerns to corporate and even broke down how their new “untested” system was not accurate at pulling data. They even admitted that they were aware of the loopholes. In the end, I chose to step down instead and I have absolutely no regrets. Losing the six figure income was hard, but losing my integrity would have been worse. I enjoy sleeping peacefully at night. Not even a month later, I was offered 2 positions and both with great pay. I know God was looking out for me.

    Like you, this has also given me the huge urge to escape the rat race. Being the corporate puppet, no matter how great the pay, is not something I look forward to doing till I get old. I feel like I have a bigger purpose in life. I feel like I owe it to myself.

    1. Thanks, Shem – definitely appreciate that!

      Sorry to hear how hard that first firing was for you, but it just goes to show that you’re a compassionate human, which we should all be striving to be! 🙂

      The same goes for stepping down from your position later on. That definitely shows some integrity and must have still been a tough decision to make.

      Good luck on the mission… time to get out of the rat race!!

      — Jim

  7. Fortunately, I never had to fire anyone or be fired. Either case would be really tough for me. I just don’t like confrontation.

    I think this last one is probably good for both parties. He could move on and figure out something better to do. Sometime a job just isn’t a good fit.
    Getting out of the rat race is way to go. Keep at it!

  8. Yes, I have had to fire employees for poor performance, for watching pornography at the front desk, for other reason. Like you said it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter the reason, it is never fun and I always found it heartbreaking to do.

    But it has to be done. It has to be done for the rest of your team who are working hard and picking up the slack. It has to be done for that employee. Even though it will bring them hardship now, my hope was always for them to find something they did excel at, something they could enjoy a whole lot more.

    My husband and I reached FI, but were still enjoying our jobs so we kept working. Until senior management changed and they basically stopped managing. They let hostile people threaten others, they let poor performers sit and the rest of us had to work even harder. It was a bad thing not to keep the team in good shape. Thankfully we had options. We simply retired. 🙂

    1. Ouch, now that had to be an interesting firing! I guess the good news is that that was probably pretty cut and dry.

      I love the idea of reaching FI but continuing to work if you enjoy your job. That can make the decision somewhat easier to leave if/when the time comes. Congrats to you guys on the new adventure!

      — Jim

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