Terminating an Employee: When Is It Time?

On television, terminating an employee looks easier than it really is. The employee makes a big mistake and boom—that’s it. However, in the real world, managers agonize over if or when they should let an employee go. They know that, by firing someone, they are taking away that person’s livelihood, which can be emotionally draining. However, sometimes it has to happen. After all, your restaurant can’t run properly, and may not succeed, if you’re staffed with bad employees. Here are some tips to help guide you in making the right decisions.

Firing an Employee Immediately

Having to fire an employee immediately should happen pretty rarely. Most employees are good people who deserve a second or even third chance, but there are certain behaviors and scenarios that may require you to take quick action. If you catch any of your employees doing the following, consider letting them go on the spot.

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7 thoughts on “Terminating an Employee: When Is It Time?

  1. As negative an experience is firing/ termination is a necessary evil provided it is done in a correct procedure.
    There are very few situations that require immediate termination so any infractions that occur should be dealt with proper pre-set form. I.e. Verbal/ written warnings. This is a necessary tactic which many managers don’t take advantage of, which causes friction in workplace.
    I know this sounds easier than reality but sometimes following the rules helps.

    1. Following the rules virtually always helps. We usually get in trouble when we bend the rules.

      Very late in my career I terminated two employees for falsifying documents. One was salaried, the other represented by a union.

      The union grieved the firing of the represented employee as they are obligated to do. Once they saw my documentation they settled the grievance at my level with no further action.

      The salaried employee filed a complaint with the EEOC accusing me of discriminating against her on several charges. The EEOC closed the case when I submitted my response with documentation.

      Throughout, I documented EVERYTHING about the cases. I had copies of the original documents and the doctored items. I took meticulous notes at every meeting with everyone I talked to. My company EEOC rep was fantastic.

      A difficult decision? No. These two had put my entire team in jeopardy. They needed to go to protect my good workers.

      The worst thing I faced was that the salaried employee badmouthed me to her fellow supervisors. I, of course, could not discuss the case with them. I finally appealed to them as a group: I pointed out that they knew me and they knew I was fair and reasonable, and I asked them to trust that I was acting fairly in this case. Luckily my tactic seemed to work. Between my reputation and hers, and the fact that one of the other supervisors had discovered her wrongdoing, my simple appeal to their reason diffused much of the anxiety.

  2. Very very very bad advice! Obviously you never held a real human resources position. NEVER NEVER NEVER summarlly fire an employee. You suspend an employee pending termination. This will avoid losing lawsuits when you find out maybe the “facts” you had are not exactly as you thought. Your advice could cost a copy millions and millions. BAD ADVICE. Contrary to my previous opinion, please stick to telling us about your travel adventures. At least that is opinion and not very bad advice.

  3. Maybe this is just PTSD from my last restaurant job, but “Does the complaint sound like your employee?” seems…incomplete? I ran into far too many managers in the food service industry who mistook how a given employee treated/acted towards them for how that employee treated/acted towards customers and other staff.*

    Asking how the complaint compares to how you’ve seen the employee interact with customers might be a better frame.

    *certainly not unique to food service, but it did seem more pervasive to me.

    1. It’s always a judgment call, and it always has to be done a case by case basis.

      “Does this sound like this employee?” can also be framed as “Does this employee suck up to me when I’m around, but act differently when I’m not?”

      “Do this employee’s coworkers think the complaint is justified” can also be framed as “Are this employee’s coworkers lazy and cliquish, and want to get rid of the hard working coworker who makes them look bad?”

      If it could be reduced to only objective data, all HR departments would be computer programs. Human judgment is *always* required when people are involved.

  4. “If a customer complains about how awful an employee was, there’s a good chance that the customer was simply looking for a discount or a free meal.”

    Amen! That is a “game” that far too many customers play; hoping to get a discount or a “freebie” not realizing/caring that they are jeopardizing someone livelihood.

    I believe that there is a special hotter-than-squidlips seat reserved in “squidlips” for those customers.

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