Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

Apr 03, 2012

When to fire unhappy people


Recently an article from Bloomberg Businessweek was brought to our attention, entitled Three Types of People to Fire Immediately.

Recently an article from Bloomberg Businessweek was brought to our attention, entitled Three Types of People to Fire Immediately. The authors wrote that if you want to have a culture of innovation in your workplace, you need to get rid of people who play the part of victims (I dont get paid enough for this), nonbelievers (this will never work) or know-it-alls (you dont understand the business were in). To a certain extent, this is good advice. If an employee consistently sees only problems instead of taking the next step and constructively working toward solutions, it can be a drain on morale, creativity, and ultimately, productivity. One negative person in a group can drag others moods down much more dramatically than one positive person pulls others moods up. If there is someone on your team who is consistently negative, you should step back and assess whether it is worthwhile to continue the relationship.

But (you knew there would be a but, right?), before you follow the authors advice, we suggest some additional considerations.

  • In certain job positions, being critical of products and processes is actually essential to the job. Examples include quality control, product testing, and regulatory compliance. You dont want people who are afraid to point out an important flaw that could end up costing the organization in the long run. Also, there are some subjects such as safety and ethics where ideally every person in the organization is encouraged to report concerns. Case in point: a bakery where it was normal for employees to reach around a protective shield into a conveyer assembly to clear out dough. No one questioned the practice, until a woman lost her arm above the elbow (Bimbo Bakeries USA, Cal-OSHA Appeals Board, June 2010).

  • People are wired differently, and this can be beneficial if management understands how to harness the strengths of different personalities. Consider the salesperson who never turns in receipts on time. This habit drives the accounting department crazy, while the salesperson feels hounded by meaningless paperwork. Understanding how to communicate based on different personality styles can help you figure out how to move this unproductive and frustrating cycle onto a better track. We offer a training class called The Personality Factor that may helpcontact your Vigilant staff representative for more information.

  • Some complaints are protected by law, even if they feel disruptive and disrespectful to management. For example, a customer service rep stands up in a company meeting and loudly complains that their workload is overwhelming and employees often have to work through their meals and breaks. That complaint is very likely protected under the National Labor Relations Act and under state wage and hour law. You may talk with the employee privately about using a respectful tone and suggesting constructive solutions in the future, but it is highly risky to discipline or terminate someone for this activity.

Were here to help you work through these issues. Contact your Vigilant staff representative if you have a problem employeewe can help you steer clear of legal pitfalls while exploring options for finding a productive solution. Yes, this might mean firing someonebut call us first!

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.