When the phone rings at an HR outsourcing company late on a Friday afternoon, it’s usually not good news.
An exasperated client – the principal of a medical services firm in Las Vegas – was on the line.
“I want to fire my assistant right now. She’s been late 11 times this month. Is it OK to fire her?”
“Let’s back up. Have you talked to her about this?”
“No. I’ve let it go so far, but this is getting ridiculous.”
As an at-will employer, you have the right to fire an employee at any time and for any reason. (As long as it is not illegal or discriminatory.) But the burden of that proof is on you – the employer.
So when an employee comes in late or violates any of your policies:
Begin by talking to the employee, and if the behavior continues, issuing a written warning.
Document your actions (and theirs). By building a file, you’re proving the discipline or termination is business and not discrimination.
Another benefit of addressing the issue quickly is it might correct the behavior.
When an employee knows you are displeased, then the eventual termination is less of a shock. When there's reduced shock, we find there's a smaller chance of unpleasantness (or a lawsuit).
A fundamental maxim of management is this: What you allow, you encourage. Address improper behavior immediately. Don’t let it go too far.
I’ve worked with many CEOs who regret taking too long to fire a poor employee.
Very few regret firing them too soon.
Just don't procrastinate.