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Warning: fire ahead

Article

How many warnings should I give, and when should I fire someone?

Q: How many warnings should I give, and when should I fire someone?

"Being fair is the most important thing," says Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Jeff Rothstein, MBA. He says the three-strikes method—verbal warning, written warning, and termination—is the best system for terminating a staff member. "This way most people truly fire themselves. You give employees chances to shape up, and if they don't then it's really time to terminate," he says.

Dr. Rothstein cautions managers to be careful not to overuse the system, though. "For many first-time issues, it works well to nicely ask the person not to repeat the behavior—no formal warning is needed," he says. "Save the warnings for the repeat problems. For example, if one of your employees had an argument in front of clients three to six months ago and he or she did it again, then I would move to strike two. But if someone was tardy by five minutes a couple of times and then had no offenses for three to six months, then it's really probably fair to start over.

"Like many things in life, you have to choose your battles," says Dr. Rothstein. "You want to manage the office, not be the office cop."

Dr. Jeff Rothstein

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