When to fire a star-employee who’s lost their spark

by Nicola Middlemiss03 Jun 2015
An employee who was once at the top of their game keeps letting the entire team down – but how long can they live off their past accomplishments before HR says enough is enough? One industry expert says HR professionals should ask themselves three questions before making the big decision.

1. Is your employee meeting the responsibilities listed on their job description?

“This is the baseline, and yet many of us don’t refer back to a job description after we’ve completed the hiring process,” says Jodi Glickman, founder of communication training and leadership development firm Great on the Job.

“Unless there are extenuating circumstances, an employee who isn’t doing his job brings everyone down,” continues Glickman. “It’s not fair to you, it’s not fair to them and it certainly doesn’t do your clients or customers any good either.”

Glickman suggests revisiting employees’ job descriptions regularly to assess how aligned a worker is with their initial expectations and revise the description when appropriate.

“If the employee’s performance isn’t matching with the current or revised job description, it is time to terminate,” says Glickman.

2. Can the market offer you a better employee at the same price?

Replacing an employee is incredibly time consuming – and not to mention costly – so it’s important to consider how much succession planning has been done for a role, says Glickman.

Think – how much time, energy and resources would you need to invest to find someone with the skill, talent and dedication needed?

“There’s no question that the hiring process is daunting,” concedes Glickman, “but with few exceptions, everyone is replaceable – as much as we’d like to think otherwise.”

“In the end, markets are efficient and talented employees looking to progress forward in their careers are abundant,” she adds. “Managers need to keep this reality in mind, even though it can be hard to see in the moment.”

3. If the employee resigned today, would you fight to keep them?

“This is the final litmus test,” says Glickman. “By reframing the question this way, you will candidly address your internal debate: How would you feel if he left you? Devastated? Then maybe the relationship is salvageable. Relieved? Then it’s time to show your employee the door.”

Of course, Glickman stresses HR professionals should only ask themselves these ultimate three questions after they’ve done everything reasonable within their power to resolve the situation – from offering honest feedback and setting realistic goals to asking for the employee’s input and ensuring they aren’t under any personal pressure.

Read Glickman's full and original article here.


  • by Linda Pettersson 3/06/2015 11:12:01 AM

    This article doesn't include what I would regard as the actions that any responsible HR professional would take and that is to find out precisely what the performance issues are that appear to indicate that the employee has 'lost their spark' and then speak to the employee concerned to find out what is going on. There could be many factors - bullying by the manager, personal issues affecting the employee, a change of direction for the work unit which has not been well communicated, poor managerial support for the employee concerned and so on. The first step should not be firing the employee.

  • by Laura 3/06/2015 1:36:26 PM

    If you read through to the end, it has that disclaimer in the final paragraph.

  • by caca 3/06/2015 5:20:09 PM

    Although this is only an excerpt of the article my impression (as both an HR professional and an employee) was essentially when the employee's energy to go above and beyond has been used up you get rid of them. This is not an appropriate title to an HR focused article.
    I wouldnt want any of my employees to read this in an HR journal and that should even be close to our first thought when someone who was a star previously has lost some of that drive. That's what we are actually there for, to find the cause and support the manager and employee to get back to where they were previously or if that was not sustainable (which could be they can no longer be a 'star') then to a satisfactory level meeting the needs of the role and business.

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