How do you know that it is time to let go of an employee? Here are signs to look out for


I was in a networking event last month where I met an old classmate of mine, Situma (not his real name) who also runs a business. As we were sharing our experiences, he gave me a story of a conflict he was going through.

Work habits of some of his employees of seven years are becoming horrible. Over the years, they have had an area that they are good at and to add on to that, they have the company knowledge and history. However, there have been times when their presence has done him more harm than good. 

They no longer bring anything new to the business. They are always in conflict with other employees thus making it hard for him to retain (really) good talent that contributes to the business success. It has reached a point where the negative attitude is extending to the clients. 

“I have lost several clients because of them,” Situma said, prompting me to ask him why despite all the signs he had not fired the said employee.  

Despite employees showing all the signs and no improvement, we do not fire them because of fear of consequence in one way or another. 

“Knowing that they know the business, I feel like I might not be able to replace that and that is why I think I have been giving him so many chances to prove me wrong. I am also not sure if I did that, I would be in line with the employment law,’’ he added. 

There is a lot to learn from Situma’s story. From the experiences I have encountered from most of the clients I hire for, it is something common – such kinds of employees tend not to be flexible and are resistant to change. 

They do not bring in new ideas and are always defensive when questioned. They do not try to do things in other ways and this can affect your business negatively. They are also not willing to learn new skills or do anything to self-improve. 

How do you know that it is time to let go of an employee? Here are four signs to look out for:

1. Poor performance 

Sometimes, when an employee is not able to perform even after giving them feedback and other changes, then it is time to let them go as it affects the rest of the team’s work and general productivity.

Such an employee will often miss deadlines, do work poorly and that may lead to their colleagues picking up their slack. They may not be able to retain clients or even get them. They often do not achieve their key performance indicators which at the end affects the business success. 

2. Lack of integrity 

Other times as an employer, you may have an industrious worker who comes at a cost. For instance, a worker may be involved in deals in the office that involve stealing or misusing funds or company property. Others may come to work late or make absenteeism a regular habit. 

Not being able to trust an employee becomes such a hard job because you are always questioning their behavior. For such a case, their strengths may sometimes not matter if you cannot trust them. 

3. They cause a toxic work environment

Some employees can cause a toxic environment for others as a result of lacking soft skills on their side. This can be detrimental as seen in Sila’s case. You not only lose clients but your brand is also at risk.

You also lose good employees who you spend more time and resources replacing and for the remaining employees, their morale and productivity are highly affected which is bad for business. 

4. They have a negative attitude 

I was once in a meeting and I noticed an employee who kept shutting down other people’s ideas. The negative lot will often say that the way they had always done things worked for the past years and they did not need someone else presenting new ideas that they were not sure could impact change. 

When letting go of staff, always remember to follow the due process and labour laws. If you are not familiar with the Kenyan labour laws, consider using a HR practitioner to avoid common pitfalls that befall who do not follow the process.    

The writer is the CEO at Corporate Staffing Services, A HR consultancy firm based in Westlands.  

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