The ability to identify and fire bad employees is a key function for all small business owners… especially when encountering staff members who won’t do their jobs or follow instruction and who have a strong negative influence on your workforce.
To avoid using any specific real-life examples, allow me shift into “reality fiction” story mode to describe a typical situation where a targeted firing of a bad apple can help fix the following problems they can cause in small businesses.
Poor Work Efficiency
We’ll call the bad apple Bad Mouth Bam. Bam has some good skills, which is why Bob the owner hired him, but he’s got a chip on his shoulder that often affects his work attitude.
He is capable of good work, but he’s unreliable and unpredictable about when he will perform good work on the job. It often comes down to his current attitude toward Bob and others. And when he’s in a bad frame of mind, Bam can disrupt Bob’s whole operation.
He talks poorly about those he doesn’t like or disagrees with (including Bob). He’s a “my way” guy all the way and resists most other authorities, views, etc. – including those of both Bob and his subordinates.
Bam often argues with or resists Bob’s direction and chastises his direct reports for not doing it exactly his way. Due to all this ongoing friction with others; Bam makes Bob less efficient, is inefficient in his own work, and makes those under him inefficient and de-motivated.
One of the reasons Bam is so hard for Bob to get rid of is because he’s also a master manipulator. Whenever something bad happens on his watch, it’s always someone else’s fault.
In his mind and in his own words… “the problem” is that Bob didn’t give him the tools or training he needs to do it right. Bob hired lousy people, or his people don’t do good work. The weather messed everything up. The customer was wrong or being unreasonable. The dog did it. Yada, yada, yada.
And because of his forceful personality, he has a way of making others see things his way and follow his lead. He is especially influential with Lazy Larry (a crew member) and Gossipy Gwen (the office administrator), who follow him more faithfully than Bob.
They’ve both been corrupted (and protected) by Bam, and when combined with Bam’s influence have got Bob and his business in a strangle-hold in these three key function areas:
- Crew Management (Bam’s influence)
- Front-Line Production (Larry’s work output)
- Office Administration (Gwen’s work output)
This is a problem and Bob the owner knows it. So, Bob meets with Bam. Often. But somehow, Bam always manages to dodge any corrective or restraining action. And manages to do this by taking advantage of Bob’s busyness and forgiving or lax supervisory practices.
Therefore, the problems he causes never go away. And Bob must meet with Bam again and again and again… OR… Bam “wins” by causing Bob to simply give in and leave him alone to do his thing on his terms without any accountability.
In other words, Bam’s the de facto boss and Bob is his pawn.
If something like this is happening in your business, repeat after me: “Bam, you’re fired.”
No more putting it off or out of your mind. Deep inside you know you need to do it and it’s the right thing. So, for the good of your business and everyone else in your business, do it now!
Yes, if needed, get your documentation in order and dot your I’s and cross your T’s. Involve legal counsel if necessary. But, just be sure to do it as soon as possible!
When Bam has been let go, Bob’s business will change for the better. At least initially, it may get more efficient even without replacing him… as Hardwork Harry and Positive Pauline rejoice at Bam’s departure and become more influential in his absence.
Also, when Bob moves to forcefully replace Bam’s corrupting influence with his own positive message and with someone with a more positive attitude, Bam’s depressing and distracting influence on the business will be removed and over-powered. With Harry and Pauline helping to lead the way, Bob’s business will start to do good and great things… instead of always dwelling on the negative or putting out Bam’s trash can fires.
Last, Bob will have more time to invest in training and building up the other more productive members of his team. Harry and Pauline would be good choices for doing so. Bob should intentionally increase their level of influence in the business, even if they aren’t in managerial positions.
Praise their work. Put their names on the wall on a plague. Do something to let it be known to all how valuable they are to the business, and encourage everyone else to emulate their attitudes and work habits.
Add to your business by subtracting “Bam” from your workforce!
Long live small business! Long live small business owners!
Jim Smith, Founder. PERFORMIDABLE, LLC