Questions to Ask Before You Fire a Poor Performer

Posted On: September 6

When considering removing a poor performer from the company, you must look first in the mirror. As a leader, it is your job to set people up for success. If someone is struggling, it is your responsibility to do everything within your power to help them get back on track.

Let me be clear. If a person violates the organization’s values, breaks the law, or does something unethical -and you can prove it- they should be let go immediately. However, if that is not the case, you owe it to them to ensure that their poor performance isn’t the result of your poor leadership.


If you are contemplating firing a team member, I recommend you look through these questions.

If you can say yes to all of the questions that apply to you, then it is likely time for that person to leave the organization. It’s your job to fix the situation if you answer “no” to one of these.

  1. Does the person clearly understand what the company expects of them?
  2. Does the person clearly understand that they are not meeting expectations?
  3. Is what you are asking for realistic and reasonable?
  4. Are there completely unambiguous measures/metrics of success?
  5. Does the person have the necessary skills/training to achieve it?
  6. Has the person ever done this before?
  7. Does the person have all the resources they need?
  8. Does the person have enough decision-making authority?
  9. Does the person have the right people on their team?
  10. Has anyone on the team ever done this before?
  11. Do the team members have the necessary skills/training?
  12. Does the person have enough time?
  13. Does the person have enough support from other parts of the organization?
  14. Does the person understand the personal ramifications of not delivering what is necessary?
  15. Does the person understand the upside for them if things go well?
  16. Does the person understand the impacts on the organization of doing well or failing?
  17. Have you given them enough coaching?
  18. Are you upset because the person is not doing it “your way”?
  19. Have you brainstormed together to help improve the situation?
  20. Have you given them enough time to improve their performance?
  21. Have you shown curiosity and listened carefully to understand their point of view?
  22. Have you motivated, supported, and positively encouraged them?
  23. Is there a family problem or health issue that might temporarily impact their productivity?
  24. Is the person usually accountable but, for some reason struggling now?
  25. Is there a tracking system to measure their progress?
  26. Does the person have access to that tracking system?
  27. Have you made it safe for them to bring you bad news?
  28. Have you made it safe for them to ask for help?
  29. Have you checked in with them often to help keep them on track?
  30. Do you trust that this person could do a good job?
  31. Do you have a positive attitude about this person?
  32. Are you truly committed to helping them be successful?
  33. Have you already made up your mind that the situation is helpless?


If you have answered yes to every question that applies, then it’s time to have a difficult conversation with that team member.

If you are still unsure how to deal effectively with a poor performer, in this blog, I explain one of the most valuable tools to hold them accountable for changing their behavior and help improve their work.

Please visit my site at if you want to get in contact with me, I’d love to hear from you.

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