Managing RemoteRemote TalentTeamwork

How to Fire a Remote Employee


Over the years, I saw great remote employees performing badly, it might not always be black and white, there are many shades of greys when it comes to remote productivity. The manager might be toxic, the process might be broken or many other things. I’ve shared the daily habits of a successful remote manager for those who want to become a better manager in a remote-first company.

Just like hiring, firing is also an important task of a remote manager. This post is for helping remote managers for when and how to make the decision to fire their remote subordinates. It all comes back to hiring remote talent using objective testing, even so, sometimes it just doesn’t work. Here’s how to fire your remote employee:

Time needed: 14 days.

Here’s what you need to do before you make a firing decision for one of your remote subordinates.

  1. Do your daily check-in chats

    Our motto is clear, there should be no surprises for employees in performance reviews. It is your fault if you are failing to deliver performance data at real-time speed.

    Remote work can be isolating, it can easily lead to burnouts for both employers and employees with a little lack of management or communication. You must make sure you are doing your daily check-in chats with every single remote employee you have.
    Daily Check-in Chats

  2. Offer help, ask if everything’s ok

    Being a professional does not mean becoming a robot. Read this post. ‘Hi’ and ‘Thank you’ are very important for a distributed team member. The vast majority of your communication is will be in text and emojis can’t save you. Make sure you are using video for daily check-in chats, which gives you more power for nudging and opportunities for learning more about the remote employee.

    Before you make a firing decision, ask if the employee is ok, maybe she has other ambitions for her career and feeling under-challenged. You can easily end up firing a rockstar employee with a little miscommunication in a remote work environment.
    Offer help & coaching for remote employees

  3. Show what top performers are doing to achieve

    We’ve mentioned the importance of productivity data and objective metrics many times before. That’s not only important for identifying top and bottom performers. You might be failing to leverage productivity data if you are not using it for coaching in your remote teams. “Hey buddy, you should start using these tools and techniques Javier is using” is not cheating or over-protecting a subordinate. It is actually nurturing your average team performance.
    Top performer data in remote work

  4. Four weeks is the key, monitor progress

    Okay, let’s assume you’re doing number 1,2,3 but still not getting any improvement over the following four weeks. The reason we’re investing this four weeks on the remote employee is based on the assumption of you hiring your remote employees with a rigorous testing process. If the employee is not tested -meaning there might be a lack of skill or expertise-, do not wait for four weeks. Do it today.

    Another good tip might be avoiding over-usage of “get better or else” type of threatening sentences. Fear might work great for galley slaves as a management style but never for knowledge workers. Especially software engineers who have tons of other opportunities out there.
    Monitor progress for four weeks

  5. Give two weeks notice and manage access

    If the employee is well-tested, try to find a new home for her in another team in your company. Losing skilled professionals has a high cost and replacement efforts add up.

    Let’s say nothing worked, and you made the decision, she/he is gone. Communicate the decision in a friendly call and give two weeks’ notice. Instead of blaming personally, highlight her/his strong skills and propose other alternatives. Share network if you really believe he/she can be a great addition to other companies.

    Most of the remote companies I know are doing a lousy job with this; manage access and protect your company assets. Make sure the former-employee cannot access -including read-only level- to your company email, documents, code repositories, CRM, financial-data, ad campaigns, databases or visual assets.
    Access Management for a remote employee

‘How to’ Remote Work Content Series

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Next piece in our how-to series will be “How to Perform Shrink-to-Grow in a Remote Team”

Do you have your own rituals of remote team management? Share with the WorkRemote community in the comments.

Written by Sinan Ata, founder of Exceptionly, the remote software engineering talent acquisition engine.

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Sinan Ata
Founder of Exceptionly, the remote software engineering talent acquisition engine.

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  1. If the manager is toxic ass then also the employee has to suffer. So, what is the protection for the innocent?

    1. Great question Prasenjit, manager NPS score given by the employees is getting popular among remote companies. What else do you have in mind?

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