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Reward good employees by removing bad ones

Arguably, every office or department has at least one employee who doesn’t quite make the grade. They are, as the game show phrase made popular, “the weakest link.”

Insights Louise Pope 27 April 2016
— 2 minute read

Sometimes these people know exactly how much they under-perform each day they go to work. Either they do not care very much, or they feel like they are sufficiently safe in their jobs and do not need to excel any further. So whilst we go to great efforts to keep harmony in the work place and reward employees, there is no better reward than removing bad employees.


Underperforming employees impact their co-workers by setting a bad example of general work behavior. Over time, the underperforming employee can impact the overall work environment. Ultimately, underperforming employees affect the profitable or “bottom line” of the organisation.

Under-performing employees are not going to improve unless they are told there is an issue. To make sure the outcome is positive, you need to have a private, face-to-face conversation with the employee that focuses on the desired results and not their deficiencies. Before the meeting, practise what you are going to say and adhere to the following steps to provide constructive feedback.

  1. Be direct and state the reason for the meeting.
  2. Have your facts straight. Know exactly what has occurred, and don’t prejudge or rely on rumours. Describe what you witnessed or what your investigation into the problem revealed, and have specific examples of the behaviour occurring.
  3. Clearly define performance expectations; describe the consequences of the continued behaviour and the impact on the business. State your personal concern with the problem, reiterating that you value each of your employees and want to see them succeed on an individual basis.
  4. Allow employees to give their version of events, and ask what you and the company can do to help them improve performance. Ask questions to ensure you understand the employee’s perspective and to clarify what actually happened.
  5. Determine what training and assistance the employee may require, and then outline specific actions that you want to see from the employee to resolve the issue. State the consequences if the employee doesn’t improve, the time line in which you are allowing them to improve, and the specific date you will be following up with them to evaluate progress. Summarise the conversation in writing, get the employee to sign it, and keep a copy in the employee’s file. 
  6. During the period of time you are allowing the employee to improve their performance, you should follow up with them on a regular basis, be available to provide assistance, and be sure to praise and encourage them when they are doing things right.


If you have followed all the above steps and the employee is still underperforming its time for action.

The best thing you can do for your good workers and your company is to separate under-performing and marginal workers. Behave legally, ethically, with kindness, civility, and compassion, but do fire employees who ought to be fired.


Most people wait too long to fire an employee. If an employee is misbehaving publicly, disciplinary action should start after one event. If an employee is consistently missing due dates, and you’ve determined the issue is not training or another identifiable factor, gather documentation, and fire the employee.

Reward good employees by removing bad ones
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Louise Pope

Louise Pope

Louise has accumulated more than 20 years of recruitment experience in the UK and Australia. After successfully managing teams for one of the largest finance recruiters in the world, Louise transferred to Sydney in April 1999 and launched new offices and new product lines, managing the group through significant growth as head of the Accounting and Finance division.

In 2004, Louise founded Aequalis Consulting. Louise has a down to earth approach, but her energy, passion and ambition still fuel the business today, and will continue to contribute to Aequalis’s long-term success. She is a strong advocate of acknowledging the shortcomings of the recruitment industry, and is known for telling it like it is.