Is firing an underperformer the right solution?

A teammate of mine recently posed this question to me: “What should a leader do when everyone knows a teammate isn’t performing at the level they should? Is firing them the right answer?” This turned into a great conversation and mentoring moment that I wanted to share on this episode. Leaders don’t go for what’s easy, they go for what’s right.


Question: “I don’t understand…if everyone knows that someone isn’t performing at the level they should, why are they allowed to stay in the position they are in?”

Mentoring Points

Firing them may seem like an easy solution, but that is not as easy as it sounds. Unless they did something that clearly broke the law, “performing slow” can’t be the grounds for termination. So firing them is probably not the solution you’re looking for to immediately address this problem.

Finding them a position that plays to their skills is a little better. Some jobs require more technical or interpersonal skills, and not everyone the combination of those. However, the timing and tempo of those opportunities must be carefully worked as to not shove problems in holes that are hidden. If the workload is adjusted to ONLY the skillsets they have, there can be a misperception they are doing well and don’t need to evolve. Depending on their rank or position, this can have huge negative effects.

Timely feedback is the answer. Offer a clean slate if you are new in a supervisory position, but stay on top of those feedback loops to share when they are doing both good and bad. Hold them accountable and ensure they understand the importance of their contribution to the team. Sometimes people need to be mentored along the way and actually respond to the challenge positively. The “fire” button is easy to push, but not always the right answer.