Getting Rid of the Bad Apples: A Way to Avoid Losing Top Talents

I’m certain that most business owners would agree that dismissing an employee is a stressful and awkward experience for all parties involved. Nobody likes to be the one delivering the bad news. That’s why, more often than not, we see senior members flip-flop on their decision just to dodge that tough conversation.

Unfortunately, without weeding out unproductive employees, we can’t grow a company. Knowing when and how to fire an employee is important not only to keep your teams afloat, but to avoid losing your best talents. Let’s take a closer look.

When a Good Apple Turns Bad

Of course, employee retention always begins with hiring the right people for the right jobs. Tools that allow us to find the best fits and hire without bias are now commonplace in the hiring landscape. However, in the not-so-odd chances that a “good apple” turns bad, a leader should know what to do to stop it from spreading to the rest of the team. Think of it as an infection; a person’s ineffectiveness or toxicity at work can be contagious.

“Your team is also relying on you to quickly fire the wrong people. And that especially holds true for senior executives. And that’s where many of us fail.” – Brett Fox, Fmr CEO of Touchstone Semiconductor

Imagine having to work with a manager who doesn’t seem to have a clear idea of what he’s doing, nor does he have the ambition to lead the team forward. Or, having to take up the slack because a coworker isn’t doing her job correctly. Negative experiences like these are dangerous especially to employees who are performing well. Damage in employee morale, greater likelihood of burnout, increase in work stress… you name it. Yet, despite knowing the consequences, many senior executives wait to act. Why?

Tolerating a Bad Apple

Fox continued in his viral post that there are two possible reasons.

  1. We hope things will get better.
  2. We’re afraid.

Firing someone is never an easy task. Especially with the greater emphasis on compassion in leadership nowadays, many of us hold onto the hope that “things will get better”, or perhaps they deserve another chance. It’s quite rare that things ever change, however. Each second spent on someone who has no intention to improve is a second deducted on a good employee’s ticking bomb. As author Perry Belcher once said, “nothing will kill a great employee faster than watching you tolerate a bad one.”

Focus on Your Good Apples

A team with high morale is what solidifies an organization’s culture, and that unity itself breeds success. But when that gets taken away, the thread tying the rest of your employees together and to their leaders will break – and so will your culture. This may come as a surprise, but focus on your A-players. Ask yourself if you’ve been rewarding the wrong people and overworking the good ones. After all, it’s harder to turn a bad apple into a good one than preventing a good one from going bad.