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Terminating a Well-Liked Employee


Eight years ago you hired an extremely talented, energetic individual who quickly became a source of enthusiasm and expertise in your workplace. A friend to everyone, this star employee excelled in their work, acing every performance review. Until recently.

About six months ago, this individual developed a snooty attitude with management. Regular absences and tardiness soon followed. Projects weren’t completed when they needed to be. Those that got done were usually done poorly. You put the employee on a progressive discipline plan in accordance with your policy, hoping to see a return to their longtime stellar performance, but the employee showed no interest in improving.

It may be time to terminate employment, but because this employee is so well liked by their coworkers, you need to be prepared for the ramifications of letting them go.

“…if you’ve decided termination is the best path forward, you’ll need to prepare for the likely consequences.”

First, this employee has built up a lot of relationship capital. You should expect the employees closest to this person to be very upset. Some of them might even want to quit. You’ll need to meet with these individuals, listen to their concerns, and try to help them adjust to the abrupt change.

Second, while this employee isn’t in management, colleagues may go to them for mentoring, guidance, and direction. You can expect some of these colleagues to be a tad aimless following the termination. Keep your eyes open for employees who look a little lost and offer to help them with whatever they need.

Third, because this employee was once very good at their job—and may still appear to be so—people in the office might fear that they’ll be let go next. You can reassure them without violating confidentiality by being openly appreciative of everyone’s contributions. Even small words of encouragement said here and there can put people’s minds to rest.

If you suspect that the fallout of the termination could be very disruptive to business operations, and you haven’t terminated others for the same cause, you may want to consider alternatives to termination, such as reassignment to a different manager.

But if you’ve decided termination is the best path forward, you’ll need to prepare for the likely consequences. Don’t wait to see what happens. Take proactive steps to ensure that upset employees are heard, aimless employees are guided, and anxious employees are reassured. The road will be rocky, but you can help smooth the way by addressing these issues before they significantly disrupt your workflow.