Deciding to dismiss a member of your team can be an agonizing one, complicated by the closeness created by the startup environment. Waiting too long to do what must be done, however, only exposes you, your startup, and your staff to constantly-increasing consequences that can prove disastrous.

There are a variety of reasons that call for staff to be terminated. Part I discussed issues related to employee performance, though those are not the only reasons to let someone go -- you must also be prepared for when an otherwise good employee goes bad.

Lack of Respect/Insubordination. Ruling with an iron fist doesn't work for long. Eventually, valuable employees leave for other positions, and are replaced -- if replacements can be found at all -- with unqualified candidates and high turnover rates. That does not mean, however, that staff members should be allowed to run amok -- as management, you must command a certain level of respect.

It is important to remember, of course, that respect is earned, not endowed. Likewise, differences of opinion are to be expected -- and in particularly innovative firms, encouraged -- but when a team member's actions go beyond respectful disagreement, it is time to give them their notice.

Failure to Correct Behavior. Nobody is perfect. Every person has flaws that need to be corrected, and when one is brought to their attention, most people are very good about correcting them. Some people, however, aren't -- whether they actively refuse to change, consider the matter low-priority, or just don't care, they never remedy the situation. When an employee fails to correct a problem after repeated requests, a more accommodating individual should be found.

This encompasses both direct in-office activities -- failing to follow procedures and company policies, for example -- as well as environment and acceptable behavior considerations including personal hygiene, proper dress and appearance, appropriate language, etc. It is important to remember that, though these issues may seem like personal matters outside your control, you have a responsibility to maintain both a constructive work environment and a positive face for your startup. When an employee's conduct negatively affects the company, and attempts to correct it have failed, they should be replaced.

Inappropriate Attitude. Attitude is a difficult are to quantify, let alone use as a basis for dismissal. Unlike uncorrected behavior, an inappropriate attitude is pervasive -- it affects all aspects of the employee's work. When an employee's demeanor, statements, and/or actions engender a negative atmosphere within the company, create problems for the company with clients, vendors, or other contacts, or otherwise affect the company in unacceptable ways, they should be let go.

Sexual Harassment. Sexual harassment is absolutely unacceptable. Anyone found to have sexually harassed anyone associated with the business -- other employees, clients, contractors, vendors -- should be discharged immediately.

For Safety Reasons. Perhaps the most clear-cut reason for discharging an employee is when they pose a threat to the safety of others. Regardless of how well-liked a staff member is, how good they are at their job, or how much the company needs what they have to offer, any employee that creates an unsafe environment -- whether due to malice, negligence, or simply being unable to perform their job safely -- must be let go. If there is reason to believe they may retaliate with violence, do not hesitate to contact the police -- your first responsibility is to ensure the safety of yourself and your employees.

Illegal Activity. This should require little explanation -- anyone engaged in illegal activity connected in any way with the business should be terminated on the spot and the matter referred to law enforcement. Beyond the ethical obligations involved, permitting illegal activity to continue may produce legal issues for the business: offices may be searched, documents and other materials may be seized, and in some states, authorities have the ability to permanently confiscate property -- such as vehicles -- used in the commission of a crime, even if they are owned by a third-party.

Making the decision that a staff member should leave will never be an easy one. However, being aware of the situations that call for termination can help you determine whether the matter calls for a remedy or a removal.

Flickr image courtesy of emmamccleary.



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