The #1 Warning Sign It's Time to Fire an Employee - Christine Kane

This comes from my own personal war-chest of aha’s and wake-up calls.

I’ve shared this story with my Platinum clients who, like me, run their own companies.  And who, like me, do not always enjoy the process of firing someone.  Especially the part when things aren’t working, and you keep second-guessing yourself, and you end up holding on way too long.  (No, you’re not the only one who does this.)

There are hundreds of concepts and anecdotes about business growth and letting people go.  They all sound great in theory. That is, until you come face to face with a situation and wonder if you’ve lost your mind, if you’re missing some subtle thing, or if you’re just an asshole.

Kevin Rose did a great interview with Jack Dorsey (founder of Twitter, co-founder of Square) on his podcast.   In the final minutes of the interview, Jack gives his parting advice, which is that it’s way too easy to get trapped into thinking that anyone you hire is there for the duration of the company.  And then he said this:

Leaders of companies have to consider themselves editors, and you constantly have to edit the team. And you constantly make sure you have the best people in.  If there’s any negative attribute within the team … you have to part ways [and deal with it] right away.”

Letting go is a necessary part of your growth. And yup, this is yet another concept. It sounds so good. But then there you are.  All alone.  Sitting in your office.  Thinking, “But I’m not Jack Dorsey. I’m just me.”

Totally get it. So here’s my aha. Take it, and use it when you need it…

Who Occupies Your Mental Space?

I was in my mastermind with several other owners of businesses ranging on the scale from the millions to the hundreds of millions.  On this particular day, I was caught in the second-guessing mode of letting someone go on my team.

In other words, I spent quite a bit of time “processing,” bringing it up, referring to it, and asking for guidance about it.

After hearing me bemoan this relationship once, twice, three times, one of the business owners (from the “hundreds of millions” category) called me out.

He said, “Look Christine. I don’t know this person. But what I can tell you I’ve learned over my years is this:  If any employee takes up more of my mental space than necessary, there’s a problem.”

He went on to say that the mental space someone occupies in your mind is directly correlated to the need to fire them.  He added, “Think about it!  Think about your best employees. You never think about them, right? You just have great thoughts about them, and move on!”

Then he concluded by pointing out the obvious.  “You’ve shared that you’ve talked with your husband about this person.  You brought it up first thing this morning. You sat in a group of three and brought it to the table there. And now you’re talking about this person again. I would say that this person is officially occupying too much of your mental space. You don’t have time for this. You have a company to run.”

I got it. And I let them go soon after.

Now, I use this not only as a measure for myself and my own business, but also as a guide for my clients.

fire an employee

The frustration of having an employee take up too much mental space.


Fire an Employee

The positive that comes once you’ve dealt with it and moved on.

You have a company to run. You have a service to deliver. You have a purpose to fulfill. When someone occupies too much of your mental space, they aren’t supporting you in your most important work.  It’s not personal. Don’t get offended. Just stop holding on. It’s time to fire.

  • Alexandra

    I would like to add that if a CLIENT is taking up too much of your mental time and energy in exactly the same way, they, too, should be “fired.”
    I know because I just did it. Thanks, Christine…

  • Ayo

    I think this also applies to relationships and dating as well. If he’s occupying too much mental space, it clearly means he’s not supporting me and needs to no fired.


  • Sonia Simone

    Dan Kennedy, of all people, said that “If I wake up thinking about you and we aren’t sleeping together, you need to go.”

    Not a bad rule of thumb, though like most of his stuff must be taken with a grain of salt …

  • Teri

    I love this. Really great, succinct advise 🙂 Thanks, Christine!