The 5 People You Need to Fire This Year

If major corporate failures like WorldCom, Lehman Brothers, and Countrywide Home Loans taught us anything, it’s that culture is the foundation of any strong business. To have a healthy corporate culture, you need to focus on people first — both inside and outside the company.

Studies routinely show the business value of happy employees. They’re more productive and more engaged, and they treat your customers better. Unfortunately, even a few toxic individuals can spell disaster for an entire organization. Clean up your company’s culture, increase profits, and boost morale by firing these negative personality types.

1. The Debbie Downer

No matter what direction the company goes, the Debbie Downer always has a complaint. Every new process is inefficient. Every new hire is incompetent. Every customer is unreasonable.

While it’s tempting to write off this negativity as part of her personality, persistent complaining can take a toll on your team. The next time she starts to grumble about a project, a policy, or another employee, ask her to tell you something positive she’s noticed as well.

If she’s the type who seems to think she could lead the company better herself, you need to confront the issue head-on. Give the Debbie Downer an opportunity to express her distaste, then put her in charge of a project to see how she does. When faced with responsibility, a Debbie Downer may see it’s not so easy to be in charge. If not, it’s time to let her go.

2. The Shallow Manager

The Shallow Manager may be great at running reports and directing projects, but if he doesn’t have his team’s respect, he isn’t cut out to lead. This type of leader may micromanage the employees under him, second-guess everything they do, or refuse to listen to new ideas.

If you worry you may have a Shallow Manager in your midst, give him an action plan with specific behaviors you want to see. Don’t hover, but set concrete goals and a deadline to see improvement. If he doesn’t meet expectations, reassign him to another department or let him go.

3. The Silent Killer

The Silent Killer is the employee who never speaks up in meetings but will badmouth everyone in the break room. Work gossip is impossible to avoid, but some people’s gossip is more productive than others. The Silent Killer spreads misinformation in the form of sensationalized rumors and can wreak havoc on morale.

Bringing the Silent Killer back to the pack is difficult because she may fly under the radar and be tough to identify. The only way to catch her in the act is to keep an ear to your own company’s grapevine. Then, tell the Silent Killer you’re interested in hearing her concerns, but you want her to tell you — not her fellow employees.

4. Mr. ‘What Have You Done for Me Lately?’

No matter how much you bend over backward for Mr. WHYDFML, it’s never enough. He’s entitled, dissatisfied, and probably pretty arrogant. He’s the employee who’s constantly asking for a raise, a promotion, or extra vacation time without ever putting in the extra work to earn it.

Even if Mr. WHYDFML is one of your best workers, you don’t have to throw rose petals at his feet. Feel free to praise him for a job well done, but make it clear that his positive contributions may not warrant what he’s asking for.

5. The Saboteur

Like cancer, a negative employee who isn’t identified early can quickly become extremely harmful. The Saboteur has decided she’s stuck working a job she hates for a company she hates, and she may start purposefully slowing the company down or decide to ruin an event.

Like the Silent Killer, the Saboteur is difficult to identify and must be dealt with swiftly. She may be battling deep personal issues unrelated to work that are making her unhappy, but you can’t afford to condone bad behavior. If you discover an employee is actively working against the company, you need to let her go.

Your employees are your company culture. Keeping them happy through courageous leadership, positive reinforcement, and your actions ensures a strong culture that will spread positivity to your customers and the community. If these five negative personality types are working for your company, don’t be afraid to let them go. Your company culture (and your bottom line) depends on it.


Paul Spiegelman is the chief culture officer at Stericycle and founder and former CEO of BerylHealth. He also co-founded the Small Giants Community with Inc. editor-at-large Bo Burlingham.

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