Should You Ever Fire Someone Due To Lack of Culture Fit?

June 6, 2019

Some employees miss deadlines, avoid hard work, are perpetually late, and just don’t keep up with their responsibilities, and these are all universally understood performance-related behaviors that can lead to an employee’s termination.

But what about cultural fit issues? Can culture problems be a basis for firing an employee? The short answer is yes.

Since companies today commit so much effort and resources to building and maintaining a strong culture that keeps employees happy and helps the company succeed from a business perspective, the answer is yes, you can fire someone for lack of culture fit if it truly impacts the company’s health. Most employment contracts are at-will for both employer and employee, anyway, so you it wouldn’t be hard to make a case for it if when an employee is truly problematic from a culture fit standpoint.

When should you fire an employee because they don’t fit with the company’s culture?

While it’s acceptable for companies to fire employees who aren’t a fit, it’s smart to make that action your last choice. You’ll know that you’re making the right decision if…

Their toxic behavior is impacting other employees.
A single team member who has a bad attitude or is argumentative can disrupt the productivity of the entire department. If an employee is repeatedly named as the reason for making others’ lives difficult, being inconsiderate or disrespectful, and / or causing inter-office conflicts, it may be time for them to move on.

You’ve spoken with the employee, and nothing has changed.
When HR identifies a person who is showing behaviors that don’t mesh with the company culture, the first step is to address it. Discussing it and setting a plan for them to change the behavior sometimes take care of the issue. 

It has nothing to do with race, sex, or religion.
Ask the difficult questions. Is the employee actually not “fitting in” because they are of a different race than the majority of your team? Are they older? Is their lack of fit because they are a man in an office of women, or vise versa? If these reasons play into their lack of fit, then be very careful as this might not be a culture fit problem at all but rather an issue of unfair bias on your part. In that case, you should probably be looking inward to check on whether you need to adjust your perspective, rather than trying to get rid of an employee for the wrong reasons.

How should you handle letting the employee go? 

Just like any other situation where you’re terminating an employee, HR teams should handle things with care when firing an employee due to culture fit problems:

Document the events leading to the decision.
HR and the person’s direct manager need to write down specific instances the employee was involved in. Note the date, time, and the other employees involved. Also include the results of this issue. Did it cause downtime? Did an employee quit over it? These records show a pattern that backs your claim the employee is indeed not a fit. 

Explain your decision to the employee.
Don’t fire blindly. There’s a chance that the person, if confronted, might question yo HR and his manager should sit him down and explain which behaviors specifically are unacceptable, and outline their expectations for change. With some coaching, it’s possible to save some employees from termination.

Offer a compensation package.
Since lack of cultural fit isn’t necessarily about performance, you may consider giving the person compensation with their termination letter. Outlining the decision with a compensation package softens the blow and it usually won’t “cost” your company much in the long run: the amount of money you might offer in a compensation / severance package will be less than what you might lose in productivity if this problematic employee stays at your company.

Dealing with employees who don’t fit with a company’s culture is a challenging situation that isn’t as black and white as firing an employee for work performance issues, but there are times when it’s your most viable option. The sooner those who aren’t a fit are removed, the faster the company’s culture can grow and thrive they way it needs to.

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Linda Le Phan
Senior Content Marketing Manager at kununu.

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