Can HR fire destructive employees?

HRD breaks down what steps leaders can take to manage badly behaving staffers

Can HR fire destructive employees?

You’ve singled out the toxic employees – now what? How do you discipline them, and can you fire them?

The answer is yes, you can terminate employees after repeated offences as it can be considered misconduct in Singapore. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) constitutes dishonesty, disorderly or immoral conduct at work and insubordination as employee misconduct.

Despite this, if you’ve accused an employee of misconduct, you need to inform them and conduct an inquiry before deciding whether to dismiss them or to take other forms of disciplinary action.

HRD finds out how to handle the tricky situation.

Read more: How much notice do I need to give before firing an employee?

Step 1: Identify the offenders
Yesterday, we broke down nine typical traits of toxic workers.

Ashok Miranda, business transformation architect, and founder at Transform & Transcend told HRD that it’s best to look out for ‘red flags’ in employees to identify difficult individuals and nip the problem in the bud.

Tackling toxicity is hard work, so he advised leaders ways to avoid the problem altogether: role-model good behaviour and clearly communicate what’s expected of employees or the ‘house rules’ from the outset, including during onboarding.

But if things got out of hand, what can you do?

Read more: 2 in 3 employees 'unable' to report abuse to HR

Step 2: Call them out
Ideally, a supervisor or manager should have called out an employee’s toxic behaviour even before HR got into the picture.

“This should be a conversation about expected behaviour in the company,” he told HRD. “And the employee should be presented with facts and details.”

However, this will only work if the company had clearly communicated an employee’s ‘expected behaviour’ from the outset. Doing so is critical because oftentimes, employees tend to bring along their ‘bad’ habits and practices from their previous workplaces.

Step 3: Clearly explain the problem and issue a stern warning
“If employees are disregarding the ‘house rules’ then they should be corrected immediately,” he said. “Depending on the severity of non-compliance and the impact of this, HR can then come into the picture and issue a verbal or written warning.”

It’s important to engage in a dialogue to make clear why their behaviour isn’t acceptable and how it’s impacting others, and ultimately the company culture.

If there are repeated offences, remember to document every verbal and written warning letter.

Read more: What are top mistakes made by HR when firing employees?

Step 4: Consider firing recalcitrant employees
Documentation will be necessary to justify this step. Leaders could consider terminating employees if they continued to be a problem and made no effort to improve.

“There should be clear evidence that the employee was repeatedly called out and did not change their behaviour,” Miranda said.

“After repeated attempts to correct them, if the employee still failed to adhere to the company’s culture norms, then HR has every right to ‘cut off the oxygen’ [to the problem].

“Although this should be a last step and can be a painful process, it’s a necessary one, as toxicity can spread like cancer through the company.”

What happens if you allow toxic behaviour to continue?
If you choose, instead, to ignore employees’ bad behaviour for whatever reason – for instance, the staffer’s tenure with the company, or a newbie’s high potential status – you may be enabling an even bigger problem down the road.

“If employees are allowed to continue their toxic behaviour, this ends up in what I call a ‘runaway culture’ where the culture manages the company, as opposed to the other way around,” he said.

“The company is now a breeding ground for ‘culturitis’ and toxic subcultures that can spiral out of control and drag the company down.”

Miranda has seen this happen in so many companies. He warned leaders that it’s more than just ‘an internal issue’ – it can affect your employer branding when workers ‘bare it all’ on employer review sites and even ruin your recruitment strategy.

Read more: How to tackle toxic workplace culture

To avoid this, leaders should take the reins and manage company culture from day one.

“It is imperative that employees have a clear sense of how they should behave in the company and the company values they are expected to embody,” he said.

“[This is why] company onboarding should be culture inclusive – the process should clearly demonstrate what the company culture is and employees’ expected behaviour.”

This way there is absolute clarity on what the company stands for, how it’s run on a day-to-day basis, and what is expected from its people.

Miranda also suggested that you monitor whether staff remained aligned with the company’s culture playbook throughout their career at the organisation. Ensuring a continual alignment of values can help you build an enduring culture, and thereby drive long-term financial success.

“The probation period is a good gauge of how the employee is adapting to the new culture,” he said. “Comprehensive peer reviews can ascertain if the employee is living the company values and respecting the company house rules.

“This ensures that the company hires the right people who fit the culture, who can embody the company values, and are aligned with the strategic vision.”

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