Six Myths About Firing An Employee

Six Myths About Firing An Employee

Nobody likes confrontation, and it’s natural that we try to find justification for not firing somebody. Following are six myths I hear from optometrists regarding termination. Keep in mind this is being spoken from the viewpoint of an optometrist who owned and operated an office of a dozen or more staff members at any given time for over twenty years. I’m not a lawyer, or an expert on human resources; consider this my common-sense musings.

Myth #1: The Employee Is Irreplaceable

This one is often used for someone who has been around a while. It also is a popular excuse for an employee who does a job that you as a boss don’t know how to do (think insurance filing). As an owner, you should be able to do any job in the office, or at least be fully aware of what that employee’s job outcomes should be. In more cases than not, that “irreplaceable” person has morphed their job into something that is completely misaligned with the outcome you expected, and a new person can do it as well or better…

Myth #2: If I Fire Them They Will Sue Me

Indulge me here, forget all the legal mumbo-jumbo, and use some common sense. If it is clear the employee is detrimental to your team you need to get rid of them. One of the biggest problems I see is when owners don’t clearly outline their expectations to the employee in the beginning, and/or don’t step in quickly when those expectations aren’t being met. There’s always a chance you will get sued, but if you’ve acted reasonably it is unlikely, and certainly not justification to keep someone that is undermining your business.

Myth #3: I’ll Wait A While And Maybe They’ll Get Better

Maybe. But probably not. Listen to your gut, and especially to other staff members. Certainly, give an employee an opportunity to improve, but deep down you usually know. Don’t wait too long – there’s nothing worse for your business, and it is not fair to the rest of your staff to keep them hanging around…

Myth #4: I Need To Keep Them So I Won’t Have To Pay Unemployment

Come on. I can’t even believe people use this as a reason to keep a bad employee. The amount you pay is miniscule compared to the peace of mind you get. And by the way, don’t get too caught up in trying to avoid paying unemployment. Again, I’m no lawyer, but to me, it seems that regardless of your justification for firing someone, the employee wins that battle every time. Don’t let it get personal – just be happy they’re gone and pay the stupid tax.

Myth #5: My Office Manager Will Handle All The Employee Issues

God how I wished that were true when I was running my office. And maybe in some Utopian world that is the case, but the fact is that most optometry practices don’t have true office managers that have expertise in human resources and conflict management. They are usually just the person who has been around the longest. And more often than not, it’s the office manager that is causing the most conflict in the office. They often do the best they can, but ultimately it is your responsibility to make the call.

Myth #6: The Rest Of The Staff Will Revolt

In just about every case the opposite happens. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief, and says “what took you so long?” The revolt occurs when you don’t get rid of the bad apple.

It’s Not Easy But…

I’m assuming that the majority of my readers have had the unpleasant experience of letting someone go. But let me ask you, has it ever not been a relief for you and improved staff morale? Please visit our website if you would like to find out how we can help you manage staff, instead of letting staff manage you…

John Scibal
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