update: how do I tell my boss that our new hire needs to be fired?

Remember the letter-writer who was responsible for training her new coworker and who was concerned that the new person wasn’t cut out for the job? Here’s the update.

I was honest with my boss and told her directly that I thought my new coworker needed to be let go. I provided her with written examples of my coworker’s mistakes and other examples that showed how difficult she was to deal with.

My boss initially suggested that we gave my coworker more time, but luckily she asked for my opinion and I told her that it would be easier and less stressful for me to do both jobs by myself, and that I believed she should be let go as soon as possible.

My coworker was let go on her 60th day and her replacement is so much better in every aspect. I think what helped the most to influence my boss was my documentation and solid examples of things that my coworker had (or hadn’t) done.

{ 32 comments… read them below }

  1. Adam V*

    This is as good of an update as could have been hoped for with this story. I feel bad for the woman, but it’s better that she be let go and be free to find a job where she’s a better fit than to be perpetually behind or making mistakes (especially if she’s “difficult to deal with”).

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Yes – being in a job where you’re not able to succeed is a recipe for all kinds of bad feelings. No one enjoys continually struggling and not succeeding. (Being challenged can be very fulfilling if you are able to improve, but it sounds like this wasn’t that kind of situation for the employee.)

      1. De Minimis*

        I agree 100%, most people know when they aren’t a fit and aren’t doing well. It’s really demoralizing for both them and their co-workers if it’s allow to go on and on.

    2. Kelly O*

      Sometimes these things just get worse the longer you let them go on. The “difficult to deal with/bad fit” would have just gotten worse as time went on, and those sorts of attitudes are infectious. (I know, I fought it in my last position.) I’m just glad you’ve got a new fit who works well in the position.

  2. Lisa*

    This update is awesome. A boss that listened, and I am so glad OP said the truth ‘that it would be easier and less stressful for me to do both jobs by myself, and that I believed she should be let go as soon as possible’.

    I feel bad for the fired employee, but sometimes people need to be let go in order to be free to find a better fit. Some people know they are not working out, but can’t get out themselves so being fired can be a relief to many.

    1. some1*

      And at least the stint at this job was short enough that the employee could keep it off her resume altogether — can’t really do that if you get fired after working somewhere for a year or more.

      1. De Minimis*

        That’s a good point. I know from experience it’s much tougher to explain a year spent at a job that didn’t work out.

  3. AdAgencyChick*

    Good for you, OP. It’s always hard to fire someone (in fact, the day it becomes easy is the signal that you’re doing it wrong), but it’s much, much worse for your whole team to let someone continue in a position that’s a bad fit. Glad to hear that your boss listened to you and that your new hire is working out better.

  4. Cass*

    Great article! May be a little nitpicky, but the “bad boss” is referred to solely as “she.” I’ve seen some not-so-great male bosses in my day too! ;)

    1. VintageLydia USA*

      It’s Alison’s habit of using her/she whenever the gender of someone’s gender is unknown (much how most people use he/him.)

      1. TK*

        And this is a letter about a specific, real-life situation, in which the boss involved was actually a “she.”

        1. Cass*

          Oops, this was actually meant for the post before? Doing this on my phone messed me up. The signs you don’t like your boss.

  5. Annette*

    I wish my company would listen to me – I’ve been documenting things for over a year and they keep giving this person chance after chance; they have not improved and only gotten worse. It is stressful everyday in our office because this person can’t be relied upon.

    1. Sharon*

      It sounds like your person is protected by someone. If that’s the case, nothing you do will help. You just have to wait until whoever is protecting that person to move on – and then your person will also be out that very instant! I’ve seen this happen at one job with a really weird guy nobody could figure out, much less work with.

      1. Artemesia*

        I have seen this several times as well. Our most worthless employee was gone about two weeks after the supervisor protecting her retired. In another case, I had protected an employee who was increasingly driving others nuts. He had been a big contributor for years and he had also stepped up when we needed someone to rescue a situation — so I felt we owed him a lot of slack — but after he shafted me a couple of times, I finally just stepped back the next time he was reviewed and let nature take its course.

        1. Annette*

          That’s what I’m doing now – the person can’t keep up with the multitude of lies and ” Oh, was I supposed to do that” anymore…more and more people are catching on. This person is supposed to get a new manager soon…my fingers are crossed!

        2. some1*

          I actually feel a little bad for employees in this situation, because they get so used to having no consequences that it probably comes as a bad shock when they get let go.

  6. Preston*

    If you have an employee/coworker who is just awful with mistakes, you can always bcc your emails to the boss, so they see the work your is doing to train or fix problems. Just something to think about.

      1. Preston*

        Really they have a policy, never encountered that. I was just suggesting the bcc because it is an option. I probably could count on one hand how many times I have used it however.

        1. Tax Nerd*

          My first job had a policy that bcc wasn’t respectful. We could use it if we were emailing a bunch of clients a standard email and didn’t want them getting each other’s email addresses, or if we were sending an email to a large group and wanted to avoid Reply All chains from hell. But bcc’ing the manager was considered un-kosher. At least in my first office.

          When I transferred to a different office, the higher ups were frequently bcc’d on the most banal of emails, and we’d find out about it because they would Reply All. It definitely came across as disrespectful, and part of the toxic culture of the different team. To this day, I will either openly cc the boss if they need to be looped in, or leave them out if it’s not at that level yet. I refuse to bcc someone up the food chain if it’s about an employee.

  7. Not So NewReader*

    I like how the boss was thinking one way and asked OP’s opinion then reconsidered her own thoughts.
    OP, it sounds like you have a decent boss. I am glad this situation got better for you and the company. Hopefully, the other employee will find something she is happier at doing.

  8. Confused*

    See, this makes sense to me. If a person isn’t showing improvement, why waste the time and money on them? A previous employer of mine had a tendency to keep people around for years, even though it was apparent within the first few weeks that they weren’t going to work out. It was a burden and struggle for everyone involved, since the employee couldn’t handle the workload, it fell on the rest of their team. I wish this had been a one-off case but it wasn’t, it was very common and across the board. So maybe someone can explain to me why some companies hesitate in letting go new hires that are clearly not a good fit? Why continue to struggle with them? It can’t only be because they want to avoid paying unemployment for those they fire, can it?

    1. Confused*

      I should add “New hires that are clearly not working out and who’s team members, mentors, and supervisors clearly say so to their managers during the first few weeks of training. The managers tended to nod but kept the new hire on anyway.”

      1. Annonymouse*


        They have a person that can kinda do the job and work the hours given. And it takes too much time/effort/money they don’t have to find someone else.

        I dealt with this at a previous job where we had an employee – I’ll call him Fergus – who was bad. I was his supervisor when we were at the same branch (once a week) and he never listened to me, did what I asked and often took over roles I assigned other people.

        Part of it was because I was younger than him and a woman.

        Several other staff and I begged our boss to find someone else. However because of the unique hours needed our boss couldn’t really find someone else to take on his role and our whole team and clients at Fergus’s main location all suffered for it.

  9. Willow+Sunstar*

    I am in a similar situation. I have a coworker who is from an English-speaking foreign country (no, not the UK or Canada or Australia) and is having difficulties both grasping the procedures and with his accuracy in data entry. I have attempted to talk to him about how we need to be accurate because the items we are entering will be sold to customers, but he comes up with multiple excuses such as “we’re all human.” Yes, we’re all human, but don’t most jobs have performance standards people need to meet?

    I have sent numerous screen shots to my bosses (it’s a very Office-Spacey type of company) about what he is doing wrong and that he is forgetting things he’s been trained on, and not looking at the existing documentation to boot, to no avail. My guess is he is being protected by someone, because if other people did that, they would be let go.

    It seems like he might have some sort of disability also, like Aspergers, because of odd things he has said and done, but I don’t know if he does or if he is just not paying attention to what he is doing. I have tried telling the boss I would rather not delegate my work to him as long as I’m responsible for it being correct, and have to clean up after my coworker all the time. I have spent numerous hours cleaning up his mistakes.

    Needless to say, if I am still cleaning up after this coworker by the time I am allowed to seek another position within the company, I will be seeking another position. I’m extremely worried about taking 2 days off for Christmas and only doing so because it will probably be so slow he can’t mess up anything.

  10. jj*

    I feel sorry for this person who was let go. There are two sides to every story. I’m in a job now where I think I may be let go. It’s true I have made mistakes and I’m not shirking responsibilities, but being micromanaged, forbidden to speak with people I needed to talk to in order to manage projects, being constantly criticized and belittled have made it stressful and difficult to do my work. It’s so easy for people on this discussion board to talk glibly about someone “finding a better fit” and how it was “so courageous” of this employee to encourage his/her boss to fire the new person — but as someone who is wondering how I am going to pay my mortgage and my bills, I can assure you that, no, the person who was booted does not feel grateful to his or her coworker for kind enough to get him fired.

    1. BlackEyedPea*

      I agree. Depending on the job, 60 days might not have even been enough time for the person to get truly acclimated to things. I wish I could hear from the person who was let go.

    2. Lisa Lisa*

      Amen! I have been that person too before and the feeling of not really being given an honest chance just because someone felt threatened still sucks to this day:(.

  11. Anon e Mouse*

    I had to deal with this exact same thing at a job. The applicant lied about her experience and so on behalf of myself and another coworker, I went to my boss with all of the examples of why we had to let her go and the struggles she had in her job. I knew she was doomed from the beginning when she couldn’t even turn on a computer on Day 1, and when you work in digital marketing, that is a huge red flag.

    The afternoon after speaking with my boss, he had a meeting with her and let her go. Since then, I think she’s taken some courses in digital marketing to actually have the background she claimed to have, but I couldn’t associate with her at all after that. It would be hard to trust someone if they lie about their experience in that fashion.

    My boss wasn’t very adept at finding someone to replace her quickly, so for a while, I took over her accounts despite having no account experience and my own duties as a copywriter. Even though I was 7 months pregnant at the time, I found another job and have not looked back since.

    Oddly enough, an account manager I found for them on LinkedIn is the one who replaced her, and my coworker at the time – the other account manager in our tiny agency – was ageist and said to me the guy wouldn’t work out because he was older. That employee did work out and he’s been there the past two years now. Maybe I should move into an HR role instead of creative. :P

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