Why Shop Owners Struggle with Firing Employees

If you are in business long enough the time will come when you’ll need to let someone go, so my goal with this article is to help you through the process.

The most common reason shop owners are reluctant to fire someone is they feel the employee is either irreplaceable, or it will take a long time to find the right replacement. First of all, everyone is replaceable, and as I have often said to clients, the graveyards are filled with irreplaceable people. With regards to the concern that it will take a long time to find a replacement, as a shop owner you can dramatically reduce this time by keeping your pipeline full. You do this by always being in “recruiting mode”, and by building relationships with the industry superstars. Secondly, if you have a low performer or someone that is unwilling or unable to work well in your shop’s environment, in many cases you are better off without them even if your productivity and profits drop. Their behavior can take a dramatic toll on the morale of your other employees, and when you consider that cost, in many cases you’ll be better served by letting the employee go.

The second reason many shop owners are reluctant to let an employee go is they feel partly responsible for the employee’s failure to produce or conform. In essence, they feel at fault for not providing the employee with the right opportunity, the right training, or the right support. Regardless, as a business owner you need to learn from any mistakes you have made in managing people and move forward. Otherwise, you are prolonging the inevitable and setting your business up for an even greater failure.

The third reason shop owners hesitate to terminate is they find themselves feeling sorry for the employee. This is often the case when they have an employee that has been with them for a long time, and as the employee has grown older, their productivity has dwindled. Shop owners will tell themselves that the employee has been loyal over the years, and if released, the employee will have nowhere to go and no means of support. In cases like this there are two things you need to consider: First, you should never feel responsible for any employee’s failure to plan for their own future, and second, you need to evaluate the true cost of keeping them on board. Over the years I have seen many shop owners that would be far better served by paying such an employee to stay home and filling the position with a productive employee. I am not suggesting that you pay them to stay home, but that you consider ways of phasing these employees out of your company.

Lastly, here’s the real secret: If you hire the right people, if you provide them with clarity in expectations, if you provide them with minimum levels of acceptable performance with deadlines, and if you give them the necessary training and opportunities, then you have done your job. Although letting them go will never be easy, it will be a lot less painful, and you can in most cases still remain good friends. I have done this, and I know you can too.

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