The decision to terminate an employee or wait for them to resign is a complex one. It is laden with potential consequences and strategic considerations. Employers face the delicate task of balancing the immediate benefits of preserving a positive work environment against the long-term implications on their legal standing and company reputation.
Benefits of Firing Employees
Maintains a Positive Work Environment
Firing employees who exhibit inappropriate behavior or poor performance can reinforce a company’s standards and commitment to a positive work environment. That sends a clear message that toxic behaviors will not be tolerated, which can, in turn, deter other employees from engaging in similar conduct.
Firing problematic employees can also help preserve a company’s culture and morale by removing so-called “workplace cancers,” thus protecting the company’s image and the well-being of other employees.
Reduces Legal Risks
By firing employees for legitimate reasons, a company can potentially avoid the more significant legal risks of allowing a bad employee to continue their behavior. If an employee’s conduct is harmful, such as harassment or aggressive behavior, removing them quickly is crucial.
Delaying this decision can lead to more severe legal consequences if their behavior escalates or causes more damage within the company.
Controls Financial Impact
Allowing an employee to quit may lead to financial implications for the company, such as being responsible for unemployment benefits. If an employee is fired for cause, it may be easier to defend against such claims, reducing the potential financial burden on the company.
Additionally, in some cases, fired employees may be less likely to be eligible for severance packages, depending on company policy and the terms of their employment contract.
Downsides of Firing Employees
Risk of Legal Action
Terminating an employee can lead to legal challenges, especially if the employee belongs to a protected class or if there’s any indication of discrimination. Even when the firing is for legitimate reasons, the risk of discrimination claims or wrongful termination lawsuits is a genuine concern. That risk can result in costly and time-consuming litigation.
Professional Relationship and Reputation
Once an employee is fired, the professional relationship is usually irreparable. This can lead to negative word-of-mouth, impacting the employer’s reputation in the industry. If an employee resigns, they may leave on better terms, possibly securing a positive reference or severance payment. That could benefit the employer by maintaining a more amicable separation and preserving its reputation.
Personnel File and Future Litigation Concerns
Firing an employee will reflect as an involuntary termination in their personnel file. That could be problematic in the case of future legal disputes. If the employee has a non-compete agreement, the conditions under which they leave could affect the enforceability of that agreement. Moreover, how the termination is documented can influence future legal proceedings or disputes over unemployment benefits.
While there are clear benefits to firing an employee over waiting for them to quit, the decision should be balanced with the potential downsides. Employers must consider the legal, financial, and reputational implications before taking action.