If you’re a small business owner, then eventually you’re going to have to fire someone. It’s an uncomfortable truth – and an unfortunate aspect of being in a leadership position. Of course, knowing that doesn’t make the process any easier, or any less intimidating.

“Firing an employee is a difficult but sometimes necessary part of being a small business owner,” explains Small Business Expert Alyssa Gregory.“There are several factors that can make firing one of your staff an uncomfortable proposition. But the more you know about job termination beforehand, the less painful the process will be – both for you and for the person you have to let go.”

How To Spot A Bad Egg

It’s important that – before you commit to removing someone from your organizations – you consider whether or not you’ve any alternatives. Is there any benefit to keeping them around? Would they be suited for a different role within your company, or would your brand simply be better off without them on board?

“It takes all kinds to run a company, but a few bad apples can definitely spoil organizational effectiveness in a hurry,” writes Inc’s Steve Tobak. “Over the years, I’ve worked with just about every employee you can think of, and in my experience, there are more or less seven kinds of people you simply have to get rid of.”

According to Tobak, if you’ve any of the following employees in your organization, you need to drop them immediately:

  • People who insult or belittle your customers.
  • People who can’t seem to keep a promise to save their life.
  • People who are either incompetent or simply lazy.
  • People who frequently, repeatedly flake out.
  • People who ignore your company’s code of conduct.
  • People with a mile-high sense of entitlement.
  • People who seem to just create drama wherever they go.

Assuming the employee you’re thinking of letting go doesn’t fit into any of those categories, there might still be hope for them within your business. Sit down with them, and talk things out – let them know their performance isn’t up to par, and see if there’s any way you can figure out a different, more suitable position for them. It’s possible that – in spite of being a perfectly decent person – they simply aren’t a good fit for your business.

The Exit Interview

Regardless of your reason for letting an employee go, you should make it a point to conduct an exit interview with them (but make sure you’ve at least one other hiring manager with you). Find out if they’ve any concerns, comments, or criticisms in regards to how you run your business, and see if their statements hold merit. After all, says Gregory, employees you’ve fired are far likelier to be blunt with you than those who resign.

Of course, if you’re firing someone who’s so incredibly toxic that an exit interview would be too psychologically stressful (or dangerous), you can always just send an attorney-reviewed termination letter. Just be careful you’re not firing someone who’s protected under Wrongful Termination laws – that’s a legal can of worms you don’t want to open.

Know When To Hold ‘Em; Know When To Fold ‘Em

Unless you’re running a one-man show, you’re probably going to have to fire someone sooner or later. Uncomfortable though it may be, it’s something you as a businessperson have to do if you want to see your organization succeed. Hey, no one ever said entrepreneurship was easy.