Can someone be fired for not being a good fit? It's a question that comes up a lot, especially if a new hire isn't meshing well with the current team. What is an HR leader supposed to do when a poor cultural fit is hired into the workplace and causes problems? Is firing them the right way to proceed?
The short answer is: it depends.
Yes, someone can be fired for not being a good fit (as long as the state follows at-will employment), but in order to do so properly, HR and management need to make a case for why the person isn't fitting and follow standard termination procedure to ensure the move goes off without a hitch.
To better understand this process, let's dig into it a bit more in detail.
What Does It Mean to Be a 'Poor Fit?'
When we think about good fit and bad fit employees, most of the time the conversation is revolving around hiring. After all, by hiring the right person for the right team and job, businesses can avoid the whole topic of bad fit firings altogether.
That's obviously easier said than done, though. If everyone that was hired at every organization was the perfect match, the recruitment industry wouldn't exist.
Being a good or bad fit is largely an issue of corporate culture. Does the new hire mesh well with the pre-existing team in a way that strengthens the team and allows for the new hire to immediately get to work and thrive?
If they do, then they are largely a good fit. If they struggle to adapt to the team and seem to have personality differences that aren't allowing them to work well with others, then you may have a poor fit on your hands.
Someone getting fired for not being a good fit is generally regarded as a last-ditch effort to address the problem. No one wants to have a high level of turnover, especially the person that was just hired and will now have to find a new job after landing one.
This can put management and HR at an impasse. Do you fire someone for not being a good fit or do you try to work with them and see what happens? How long should you wait?
These questions do not have a blanket answer that all organizations can abide by. Instead, it really is determined by how poor of a fit the person is and how hard it would be to replace them with someone who will perform better.
And this is where we get into the core of it. In order to fire someone for not being a good fit, you need to document the reasons why they aren't fitting in and make a case for their termination.
Fired for Not Being a Good Fit: Document the Issue Before the Move
For someone to be fired for not being a good fit, the HR leader has to first make a case for their termination. Not only does this help everyone to understand why the person isn't fitting in (and may even lead to a way to keep them onboard that isn't termination) it also helps show that their firing isn't discriminatory.
When it comes to cultural fits, discrimination claims can be easily made sometimes. For example, if your workforce is predominately one race and one sex - let's say white and male - and a new hire who isn't fitting in is African American and female, you cannot use those differences as a reason to let the woman go.
Even if you aren't taking her race and sex into account (which you shouldn't be!), you still have to do your due diligence to make sure that that isn't the reason she is being let go.
So to do this, you need to document all of the issues that the new hire is having to show that they aren't working out because their personality, work ethic, and things of that nature are not meshing with the current team and causing problems.
Just like when you go to fire someone for rule-breaking, a well-documented case makes the whole process easier and can help you avoid legal troubles down the road.
As always, with any reduction event, even a single firing, it's always a good idea to weigh the legal repercussions even if you are within your right to fire whoever you wish. For this, we recommend discussing the move with your legal counsel to ensure you are complying with all local, state, and federal laws.
A person fired for not being a good fit can be tricky, legally speaking. Make sure you take all of the precautions you need to.
Fired for Not Being a Good Fit: Making the Move
After you have documented the problems, made a strong case for the firing, and have tried to work with the team to get past any issues, you may still need to move forward and fire the employee.
To do so, following termination best practices is the way to go. In short, this involves holding a meeting and providing the employee with a written termination letter that details the move and why it's happening.
During this meeting, make sure that you allow the employee to say what they need to say (within reason) and make sure you actually listen. If they really aren't fitting in, chances are that they aren't enjoying working for your organization and may have even seen this coming. On the other hand, they may be completely blind-sided (though you should be working with them on the problem before simply up and firing them). Be ready for either response.
Also, keep the meeting to the point and as short as possible. You need to tell the employee the specific details of the firing, including how they will be paid their final check and things of that nature.
Basically, this should be your firing process across the board, regardless of whether or not it is because of a poor fit hire or a disciplinary action.
That being said, getting fired for not being a good fit should isn't truly the same as being fired for misconduct or rule-breaking. It's not entirely the person's fault that they aren't fitting in (it's likely a poor hiring issue). So, it can help to add some extra benefits to these situations, treating them more like layoffs than firing events.
Fired for Not Being a Good Fit: The Benefits
When a layoff occurs, employees who are impacted are generally extended benefits that are not offered to those being fired. This is largely because, on paper, a layoff in an involuntary termination while a firing is a voluntary one (because the firing is usually due to the employee's actions).
Because being a poor fit at an organization is really a hiring mishap most of the time, those being fired for not being a good fit should be extended key benefits, too.
The first is a severance agreement and payment. By having those that are fired for not being a good fit sign a severance agreement, you protect yourself from potential lawsuits while also providing the employee a payment that can seriously help them get through their job transition.
Alongside the severance agreement, you should also consider offering outplacement services to the employee. As a refresher, outplacement is a service offered to outbound staff members that helps them get back to work in a new role faster than going it alone.
The best outplacement services combine cutting-edge technologies, expert coaching staffs, and state-of-the-art learning platforms to help participants navigate the job market. Key differentiators to look for when shopping for outplacement include whether or not the provider uses term limits or works with participants until they land a new role and if they use retainer fees or not.
To learn more about outplacement, read our guide here. If you are interested in learning about what outplacement costs, check out this pricing guide:
Someone who is fired for not being a good fit can seriously benefit from these additions, allowing them to land a role that is a better for them, too. At the end of the day, you should want this person to succeed even if they aren't doing well for your specific team.
Fired for Not Being a Good Fit: The Takeaways
When it comes to firing someone for not being a good fit, you need to remember that it's still a termination, meaning that you still need to document the move as much as possible.
Make sure you are not discriminating against anyone! This should go without saying. However, even if it is not intentional, discrimination claims can pop up. Always check with your legal counsel before making any sort of move that could land you in court.
Once you have made your case, you can proceed to actually let the person go by holding a meeting and extending a written letter to the employee.
To make whole process go over smoothly, consider adding benefits to the termination, such as a well-crafted severance agreement and outplacement services that help protect your business from lawsuits while also helping the employee land on their feet in a new role.
When all is said and done, a person fired for not being a good fit may benefit from the move, allowing them to find the right role for them while also allowing you to find a better fit for your team.