I'm a team leader and I have a developer subordinate who is incompetent.

They joined the company about six months ago and have failed in every single task given. At first, I thought it was simply an issue of getting used to our way of working, to adjusting to our domain and tech stack, but over time I discovered the employee didn't grasp even the simplest concepts of software development. They have many years of experience with different companies and it is beyond me how a person with such credentials could be such a bad performer.

Of course, I addressed my observations with them. Over the last five months, we've spoken many times, discussed the problems, suggested ways to improve, and made plans on what tasks to start working on.

My hope was that I either find some type of tasks that they could do okay, or that the developer would improve their skills. Unfortunately, neither happened, and four weeks ago I told the employee I was putting them on a personal improvement plan. I did this with no official paperwork, as the developer was on probation anyway. My company mandates a probation period of six months for all new employees.

Four weeks forward and there's been no change. Actually, it's now even worse - my developer disrespects working hours more often, does not follow instructions and reports almost no work progress at daily stand-up meetings. Looking in retrospect, the number of completed tasks for their whole stay can be counted on my fingers.

Therefore, I made the decision to fire the developer. As a team lead I can't hire or fire people directly, I do this through my boss - so after updating her on the situation, I got her okay, but was also asked for the amount of notice period that should be given. This is where my dilemma is.

According to contract, employees are not owed any notice while they are still on probation. I would be okay with an exception, but for an employee who has actually put in effort in their job. To me and to my team this engineer is worse than useless - in fact work is slower with them on board, because we have to spend time helping them out, getting nothing in return. So if we give out a notice period, this person will just occupy office space, probably using their time to browse job sites. I don't feel we should be losing company money on this.

On the other hand, I feel just kicking them on the street at the beginning of December isn't the right thing and that I'm so keen on firing them mostly because I feel taken advantage of. I feel this person thought I wasn't serious and wouldn't fire them. I don't want to be evil, but I also don't have any tasks I can give the developer during their notice period - there's nothing they can complete in a week or two's time (we are absolutely not giving them a longer notice).

What I ultimately did was prepare a list of what the person had still to finish (not much), and let my manager know my team had no further work for them. I told her no notice period was needed from my standpoint, but deferred the final decision to her.

I'm new at leading teams, and my questions are:

  • Does a person have to "deserve" their notice period or should it be always given, simply because this is "the right thing to do" or so you don't burn any bridges?
  • How do you get a person to understand you're serious about taking action regarding their poor performance, so they improve (or seek another job they'd be a better fit for) instead of getting fired?
  • How do you decide (and at what point) that a person is not good, rather than simply not used to a new job, so you can take action to get them off the team?
  • 4
    Your contract might say there's no notice period required, but does your local government (at each level) have a legal requirement?
    – corsiKa
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 4:13
  • 2
    Surely this (excellent) question could be shorter??
    – Fattie
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 8:34
  • What would the individual in question like? Do they want to come into a job they hate whilst they work their notice period, or would paying them a severance package and not expecting them in be preferable? IMO you should treat them as you would wish to be treated and that, to me, would mean being given some form of notice period. Whether or not they "work" it in the office or is another matter entirely.
    – Miller86
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 9:37
  • The fact that there are multiple, distinct questions being asked at the end is an indication that the question is too broad (as currently stated).
    – Time4Tea
    Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 20:45

13 Answers 13


I think you are misunderstanding the question from your boss, and over thinking the situation.

Your boss isn't asking how long you want as notice for the person, she actually wants to know what the effect of this person leaving has on your team and delivery.

"I'd say 4 weeks as we'll need X here while we fix that new module they spent 4 months on. No one can work out how it is supposed to work, and if we don't we'll miss the Feb delivery" etc

There should be HR plans around how this will happen by default when a probation doesn't work out. Your boss just wants to make sure that it won't throw a spanner in current plans, as opposed to riding out the person for a little longer to ensure handover.

So just respond on what you need (the person isn't working on anything critical so we can wrap up asap) and leave it to people who's job is to take tough decisions like this.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jane S
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 21:47

Does a person have to "deserve" their notice period or should it be always given, simply because this is "the right thing to do" or so you don't burn any bridges?

There is no such thing as 'deserve' in business. If it's not contracted, then there is no obligation. Sometimes there is a company policy or even 'norm' that applies.

But not in your case. Which makes this a purely personal decision that we can't make for you. The pros of doing so are all to the benefit of the employee, the cons are all to the detriment of the company. Your problem is whether to let your personal feelings be a factor or not. Professionally you don't without authority, but you have been given the authority so it's up to you.

Hard decisions are why companies need leads and managers but to hit the core of your question, there is no ethical dilemna here with sacking without notice period.

  • 26
    I agree business is business but any person you interact with on such a level will be speaking to others (we are in a small market) about you and the business you represent. So if they are treated with respect and regard for their well-being (i.e. not being left on the street just before the holidays), they should be leaving with less hard feelings and just face the truth they weren't a good match. On the other hand, that's not always worth it, because it's on the expense of the company. It shouldn't be paying for incompetent workers. Commented Dec 2, 2018 at 15:29
  • 18
    @JohnSomeone they have already had several talks and 4 weeks PIP in which time they got worse. They already know the problem, it's not something just sprang out today. They're not owed anything else or have any reason to complain. But a disgruntled employee will complain anyway, nothing can stop that.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Dec 2, 2018 at 22:08
  • 3
    While I very much agree in this case the employee doesn't seem to be worthy of a notice and is behaving like being fired is inevitable, this answer needs a few caveats. The business that gives no notice in general will find itself on receives no notice in general.
    – Joshua
    Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 17:31
  • @Joshua valid point in general
    – Kilisi
    Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 20:07
  • 2
    To add to this a firing is rarely a total surprise to an employee. Most are smart enough to understand when things aren't working out and their days are numbered. If this guy is struggling as much as you say then I'm sure he sees the writing on the walls. Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 20:56

Give the employee a notice period that is standard in your company. You will not regret it in a long (enough) term.

  • 23
    Sometimes the simple answer is best. I've been in a situation where people were fired with no notice, and the hit to the morale of the rest of the team was worse than just paying two weeks would have been (especially as the first person fired wasn't even well liked, and we would probably have held a party if they had left under less brutal circumstances...the second person was well liked, after which point everyone began updating resumes asap). Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 1:13
  • 1
    I would normally agree, but my company has a whole month of standard notice period, plus it was made clear to the employee they were not doing a good enough job, months in advance. Being put on a PIP should have served as a notice period of a sort, or I was hoping so. Finally, everyone on the team could see this person was not performing, so firing them doesn't happen out of the blue. But I do understand your point - people would like to know that if they don't perform, they can still get humane treatment. Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 6:14
  • 4
    @JohnSomeone: I didn’t want to be explicit but humane treatment is the core point. Be the noble one and put it all behind you. @user3067860’s reason is good too and highlights the effects of the same action from the business perspective. Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 6:30
  • 9
    Don't give notice, give severance (or, if you're feeling kind, keep "employing" them for a month or two and tell them not to come in so they can stay on your insurance). You don't want to keep a fired employee around because of the risk of sabotage or tension, and you won't get much productivity out of them anyway. cc @JohnSomeone
    – Kevin
    Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 20:00
  • 2
    @JohnSomeone: Also, armed with the new knowledge of how your current rules have played out in this case, go ahead and update the rules after this case is over. Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 1:44

Don't give them notice.

Give them a severance pay package that would be commensurate with the standard notice period.

You will not be doing them nor anyone else any favors in allowing them to continue.

It may seem harsh, but it is actually the kindest thing you can do for them. No one likes to be the "walking dead" on a job site. Also, involuntary terminations open the door for retaliation, especially as a developer.

You should have your sys admins ready to cut all their access the minute the door to the office closes. If possible, walk them out a side door so they don't have to do the "perp walk" out through their former colleagues.

  • In the tech field this is the common thing. Perhaps a combo of severance pay, with "work from home" call in by phone for information exchange.
    – ivanivan
    Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 16:19
  • Exactly - this is the overwhelming point here.
    – Fattie
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 8:35
  • Absolutely 100% this.
    – bob
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 14:25
  • 1
    Or have their termination date be in the future by whatever the standard notice period is, and disable physical and electronic access to all systems immediately. (The difference between this and severance is that this still provides benefits up to the termination date.)
    – jamesdlin
    Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 0:51
  • 1
    @ivanivan In Britain this is known as "gardening leave" :-)
    – Mawg
    Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 10:53

It seems you found an employee who is sadly totally incapable of doing their job. You gave them a lot of chances to improve, and they didn't - quite the opposite.

The last weeks seem to be the effect of what I would recommend to any employee: If you feel you are on the way out, don't worry about the old company, getting a new job should have priority. Sure that's bad for the employer, but if the employee asks, I will say what's best for the employee.

As far as OP is concerned: Ethically you are absolutely fine of letting him go without notice. Obviously check that your boss, HR, and the laws of your country agree with it. Your boss will of course want to know if the employee leaving tomorrow will cause any problems; apparently it won't and your team's productivity won't be harmed so that's fine.



Just to clarify some apparent confusion based on a comment:

I am not in any way saying that the employee "shouldn't be terminated". What I am saying is that the employee should be given an official notice of termination with the same 1 or 2 week period the company would expect to receive if an employee were leaving the company; e.g. "Your position will be terminated, effective 2 weeks from now.". That is the professional thing to do.

I'm new at leading teams

I think that your performance as an inexperienced leader may've also been a contributing factor to the situation your employee is facing right now.

If teams share in their success, then they must also share in their failures.

While this does not excuse the employee, you and your team should see this situation as a team failure. Take a long hard look at the things that you and your team will do to avoid this kind of team failure from repeating itself in the future with another new-hire.

Teams must set themselves up for success.

Does a person have to "deserve" their notice period or should it be always given, simply because this is "the right thing to do" or so you don't burn any bridges?

What I think people "deserve" is to be treated with respect, dignity, and professionalism. That's not to say that you must "agree" or "celebrate" their behavior; they're different things.

At my workplace, there was an intern that, according to management, was under-performing. (I didn't see this myself, as I was a new-hire at the time on a different team.)

He was still given a notice period because that is The Right Thing to Do™. The notice period was roughly two weeks, from what I recall. The company took a quantified 2 week "hit", but that was it.

On the other hand, this is what happened when the company laid off ~%2 of its workforce earlier this year. There was no notice period; it was "effective immediately". Well, the employees that were left behind were not happy at all with how the company had treated their "valued" employees [1], and that created a significant amount of distrust and can still be felt today and was reflected in company surveys of "leadership".

When a company shows that it is all talk (e.g. "we value our employees", we "always strive to do what's right", etc), and companies usually like to parrot these things, but then pull a stunt like this, then the company is, by actions, showing how hypocritical it is towards its own "valued" employees. Some employees that had not been laid off chose to leave later in the year anyway.

The point of this is that, whether you have a contract obligation or not, as a leader, you need to take into account the impact of your actions. Besides, it's not like employees get offered contracts that favor them in any way; the contracts that companies provide are entirely one-sided, making the "we're not required to do this by contract" excuse a textbook example of begging the question.

Therefore, with this in mind, you must understand that, had employees really been able to have an actual choice, they would've certainly liked to get some sort of notice.

Look at it the other way around: Suppose your employees have no requirement to give you a 2 week notice before leaving, and they leave you in a tough spot, what would you think about it? In short, treat others the same way you'd like others to treat you. End of story.

[1] And these weren't even under-performers; it was due to bad management decisions that put the company in a tough financial spot. But hey, at least now I know what kind of "loyalty" I can expect from my company in the future, right?

How do you get a person to understand you're serious about taking action regarding their poor performance, so they improve (or seek another job they'd be a better fit for) instead of getting fired?

I think your approach as a leader sets the tone of the conversation. Perception, clarity, and straightforwardness go a long way, and if your company has the kind of culture where everything is too political and everyone must read "between the lines", then perhaps you could've been more up front and explicit about the situation.

However, I don't know what was said or how it was communicated, so you'll need to keep this in mind, especially if someone is not yet used to the company culture and the true meanings behind certain things.

For example, at a former employer, they'd have a tendency to say "That's a great idea" to things they had no interest in, so I got burned a few times because of that disingenuous nonsense, since saying "We can't work on that at this time" or something to that effect would've been better by not causing confusion. I assume you get my point.

How do you decide (and at what point) that a person is not good, rather than simply not used to a new job, so you can take action to get them off the team?

I don't think there's a hard-and-fast rule for this, such as "always wait X months". You must account for the actual background of the person and the actual tasks that you gave him.

For example, at a former employer, I had been interviewed as a firmware engineer, but then spent the 1st year doing the work of a firmware test engineer.

As I stated in my comment under OP, this was a bait-and-switch, which contributed to frustration, lack of motivation, and being generally upset for a while. However, I did not take this as an excuse to under-perform (I did quite well, actually) and later moved on to do software engineering work, but you must at least be aware of whether this did or didn't happen at your company with that employee and how that might've contributed, if it happened at all.

In my experience, depending on the kind of work (and actual effectiveness of any help received, if any), the complexity of existing systems could require devs to spend anywhere between 3 - 12 months to become reasonably effective at something. (Again, depending on actual complexity, and mentorship, etc.)

As someone who has mentored interns several times, I can say that I've seen some do well and others not-so-well for different reasons.

An intern that didn't so too well had been, unfortunately, set up for failure by a more senior engineer who severely under-estimated the complexity of the project to which the intern was assigned.

This, in combination with the intern's attitude problem (probably a side-effect of frustration), ended up contributing to his failure. While I didn't mentor this particular intern, I don't think I would've been able to do much either, given the situation.

In summary, based on my experience, in many (not all) cases, employee failures are as much the fault of the employee as it is the fault of management and leadership within the same company. Only you can take an honest look at this and see what does and doesn't apply.

  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jane S
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 21:47
  • I've never seen a company give 2 weeks notice for a termination. Large professional companies don't do this. It's too risky. If the departure is not amicable, the employee should be considered a threat to the well-being of the company, and should not remain any longer than is absolutely necessary. Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 9:34
  • They may not let you stay on site for two weeks, but it is usual to pay you for two weeks. Gardening leave
    – Mawg
    Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 11:38
  • @user1751825 That you've not seen it does not mean it doesn't happen. It happened to me once (company laid off 30K+ employees); my friends and other co-workers that got affected by the WFR also had went through the same. We'd still be at the office, usually hand-off work to others, etc.
    – code_dredd
    Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 17:28
  • @Mawg See my reply above ^
    – code_dredd
    Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 17:29

Creating this answer since I don't see anyone considering the probation period.

I work for a Portuguese company and here it is customary that the first 3 contracts have a fixed end date (6 or 12 month contracts). We are a tech support company and are struggling getting people that speak the languages we provide support for. There are incentives of 1000€ if you bring in people speaking a certain language, we are struggling to meet KPI's at times, we renew contracts of people that just aren't that good.... Even with all these signs, people due for a renewal stress that their contract might not be renewed and there's always a bit of relief when they get the email saying their contract is ready to be signed at HR. I wrote all this to tell you that your colleague should know well enough what the consequences can be at the end of his probation.

Your team member was on probation and got a PIP without showing signs of improvement. They should not be surprised when you terminate the contract.

Since you ask how to show a team member you are serious, I think you made a mistake by not having an official PIP started. Putting stuff to paper with clear consequences will always have more weight.

How to decide when enough is enough? When there's been no improvement for some time and no drive to improve. This is what you have the PIP for.

Concerning the ethics at play, it might be good to read how Netflix views this:

We model ourselves on being a team, not a family. A family is about unconditional love, despite your siblings’ unusual behavior. A dream team is about pushing yourself to be the best teammate you can be, caring intensely about your teammates, and knowing that you may not be on the team forever. Source

I also follow The Wandering Dev Manager's answer in that your boss is only asking you how much time is needed to minimize the impact to your team.


One factor to consider: is there a risk of this individual doing some kind of active harm to the organization or team (e.g. spreading malicious rumors, committing acts of vandalism or property damage, causing subtle harm to the system, etc.) during the notice period?

In terms of notice, based on what you've stated, it also sounds like you've had multiple discussions with the individual, including the informal PIP. Given that and their subsequent apparent lack of effort to improve, the individual shouldn't be surprised that they're being fired. Admittedly, the timing (December) is at least mildly unfortunate, but that's kind of their own fault. Effectively, the PIP (even if informal) was their notice. If they didn't even make an effort to meet the goals you discussed with them, they shouldn't have any expectation that they'd still have a job at the end of the duration of the PIP.

For future reference, it may have been better if you had formally documented his poor performance (e.g. the PIP and his subsequent lack of improvement) and possibly given an "official" length for his PIP (i.e. he has to meet specific goals within, for example, a month). That's probably not as big of a deal in this case, though, given that the employee is still in their probation period, so you really weren't obligated to do so.

One more point. In terms of the effect on the morale of the rest of the team (referred to in another answer): I'm guessing that other people in your team have already figured out that the person is incompetent, especially if they're reporting virtually no progress on any task during stand-ups and aren't completing tasks. That being said, keeping this individual around could actually hurt morale. I worked at a company where certain employees had a reputation for not doing anything useful, and it was bad for morale because it made it look like management didn't care whether you performed well or not.

TL;DR You already gave them plenty of notice that you were dissatisfied with their performance, including an (albeit informal) PIP. The fact that they're being fired should not come as a surprise to them. There is no ethical obligation to give further notice, since they were already given ample warning that they need to improve, and there's a real risk of tangible harm if you keep them around (e.g. If they engaged in some kind of destructive behavior during the notice period, or if keeping someone around who's known to be incompetent hurts morale).

  • This: "I worked at a company where certain employees had a reputation for not doing anything useful, and it was bad for morale because it made it look like management didn't care whether you performed well or not.". I agree this can lead to others underperforming, and you worded it positively. The same scenario could be described as firing one person to make the others perform better out of fear - "pour encourager les autres" as they say.
    – AdamV
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 9:38
  • @AdamV It'm not suggesting that they do that to intimidate others into performing well. The problem at that particular company was that it was perceived that poor performers got the same rewards as good performers (continued employment, etc.), which was very discouraging to the good performers. Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 14:15
  • I did not think you were suggesting that, but the two motivations seem very close and could easily be misinterpreted by employees, especially one who was fired, was my point.
    – AdamV
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 18:11
  • @AdamV It's worth noting that the company in question was purchased about a year ago by a larger company, who ended up firing a lot of the underperformers. I have contacts who still work there, and none of us were at all surprised by the people that were fired because they had a reputation for being useless anyway. Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 14:22
  • @EJoshuaS That's why I was happy about being in the second round when I was laid off. The first round was all the deadwood, so being in that round would have been embarrassing. There were darn good people with me in the second round. Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 17:38

Please keep this in mind: if this probationer's incompetence is obvious to you, it's also obvious to your other team members. You will gain respect when you handle this situation decisively and then explain it to your team.

Keeping the person around is worse than useless. Worrying about it is taking up your time.

Tell your boss and/or HR department you have a probationary employee who clearly isn't working out. Make it clear you have no further work for the person to do on your team. Ask them to deal with the person's departure and severance. They know how your company handles failed probationary employees, and it's HR's job.

You said you don't have the authority to sack somebody. That means you also don't have the responsibility. They've done it before; let them do it this time.

After the person is gone, call a meeting of everybody involved in the hiring process for the person and ask the question, "how can we do better next time?"

And, as a new manager, know this: it's much harder to contemplate sacking somebody than it is to actually do it. Sometimes people don't work out. That's not good, but the only thing worse is keeping them around out of misplaced compassion.


This is a nice question showing the dilemmas of middle management. Someone mentioned it may be too long, but I don't think so - OP has all of this stuff on his mind and is pondering all of it. Management is not just ad-hoc hit-or-miss decisions.

Does a person have to "deserve" their notice period or should it be always given, simply because this is "the right thing to do" or so you don't burn any bridges?

Doesn't matter. You are the one who decides this. Yes, you are in a tough business developing software, but as a manager, you also need to have your own "moral compass" (a.k.a. gut feelings, sense of propriety, decency). As you write, you find it not human to put them on the street on 1st of December.

So, for your own mental health and conscience, the answer is very simple: don't do what your moral compass forbids you. That's why it's there. If your internal processes allow it, I would suggest to give him the notice, but still send him home on the first day of it. That way he is off your shoulders, you have avoided putting him (as a human) in a cruel spot, and all is well.

Your company is structured in a way so that you are not directly responsible for the money he gets in that notice week(s). Someone is - maybe your boss, maybe someone else. As long as you are transparent and hide nothing, they will certainly either approve or disapprove your request. If they approve, all is well. If they disapprove, then the poor dev will sit on the street on 1st of December. In theory you could chose to fight your internal process then, but that is a completely different question that you can tackle if and when it arises.

How do you get a person to understand you're serious about taking action regarding their poor performance, so they improve (or seek another job they'd be a better fit for) instead of getting fired?

By taking action. There is no way whatsoever to say "or else" and have that be sufficient. There is no "pre-warning" to give in such a context. People have been gaming this type of conflict since the beginning of mankind; children and adolescents do it all day, every day.

How do you decide (and at what point) that a person is not good, rather than simply not used to a new job, so you can take action to get them off the team?

In my case, I meet everyone of my directs once a month for a closed-door one-on-one without agenda - just a recurring 15-30 minute time slot. Often this brings up interesting stuff (new developments, etc.); and most times it's problems of the employee that they need fixed (and which they then can bring up more easily than having to pull together the will to write an email or make a phone call about it).

This also means that I have to focus myself on that person at least once a month. For most of my people, I meet them almost daily, randomly, so it's not like it's the only time we meet. But this is a good moment to take a very short recap of the previous month, figure out if you know anything about the person, make up your mind if you want to bring up something, and so on. I'd certainly take the chance to think very hard about if something improved in a "problem case", talk with other team members who have more to do with him, etc.

  • This is pretty much how I'd see it. Give them their notice, pay them for it, but send them home on day 1 (or at the end of the week, if that's more appropriate) Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 16:18
  • @AlgyTaylor If an employee is being sacked, as apposed to being made redundant, they should be escorted from the office immediately after being informed. Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 6:54

In this situation, I don't think you should give any notice period. You could be putting your company at risk by doing so. You should call the employee into a meeting room, tell them that their employment has been terminated, effective immediately, then walk him/her out the door, only allowing the employee to collect their personal belongings on the way. Don't allow the employee to access his/her computer.

Your first obligation needs to be to your company, and ensuring the security of the code-base, and network.

A disgruntled ex-employee is a very real and significant risk to a company, and should not be allowed to remain on the premises for any longer than is absolutely necessary.

In the case of a redundancy, there is a payout, which to some degree will help to ensure the ex-employee doesn't do anything malicious. However with a sacking, the employee has no incentive to behave responsibly.

From your description, it doesn't sound like the employee has made any attempt to improve, and as you've said is now worse than ever, and disrespects the office hours, and does not follow any directions. This is an employee who does not care about the company, and does not care about his/her reputation. This is a risk, which should not be underestimated.


Question 2:
You should have given at least one verbal and after that one or two written warnings about the employees performance.
Each getting stronger in tone and in the last clearly stating that the next consequence is termination.

Your probation plan was a good alternative and since he failed to adhere to it, your decision is justified.

Question 3:
One doesn't suddenly decide that a person is a bad fit or incompetent / inapt.
It is a culmination of events, behaviour and professional results (or lack thereof).

Question 1:
Legally notice periods are regulated by contracts and the law in the jurisdiction (replacing the contract if it is insufficient / non existent).
Ethically notice periods are a chance for the employee to find another place to work and for the employer to find a suitable replacement.

Anything outside of legal obligations is left to the discretion of the party deciding to end the contract and may be rejected without legal repercussions.

Interpreting the question of your boss like "The Wandering Dev Manager" suggests is probably correct and a good way of deciding upon a number even if you're not in the position to fully grasp the impact on the company.
It constrains your decision within your purview and relieves you of ethical pondering.


"Firing people is our way of helping them find their place in this world."

Those words came from a personal friend, president of a medium size organization, at the family dinner table when his eight year old son asked if he had fired someone that day.

IMHO, remembering this and applying it thoughtfully and with reflection will help serve as a moral compass to guide you throught this.

A few applications for your three points in turn...

  1. Does a person deserve notice?

In a general sense yes, and you gave that, in the general sense.

  1. How do you make employees know you are serious about stuff like this?

Not even God can convince everyone that He is serious, but you can convince more people the more you mature with experience. Everyone knew the TV star on The Apprentice was "serious" about firing people because he was known for saying, "You're fired." Earning a reputation helps, along with the attitude that comes after you earn that reputation through time.

  1. How do you decide whether someone is good at the skill, not just used to the job as a seasoned team member?

In an interview, Steve Jobs said of John Scully, the man who got him fired, "I hired the wrong guy." He said another time that a leader needs to get good at quickly recognizing whether someone is right for the job. A friend who worked at Apple explained to me that they have a lot of interpersonal skills training and awareness and such. You will never be perfect at this, but you can learn about people and, the more you do, the better you will get with time.

Even Steve Jobs couldn't get all these questions figured out (and 'Jobs' is his last name, lol), but he said at Stanford that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that ever happened to him.

Give that gift this Christmas, and package it as such. Here are some considerations to discuss with your boss:

  • "Let go", don't actually "fire". Make the person rehirable in the future, if evidence of certain skills shows improvement after a few years.

  • This may seem silly to many experienced people, but if you and your boss agree about it, that will give you clarity on the matter; that clarity is the goal here: Consider offering some free Udemy courses to the employee in the programming languages that were lacking. ...Just discuss it with your boss and decide either way.

  • Maybe, sooner is better. Yank the tape off the hairy skin, don't draw this out. More time before Christmas to find a new job is better or at least give time to join special holiday season temp jobs.

  • Research how to fire someone. Ask your boss and avoid "workplace eruption", think of everyone's safety. You don't want retaliations that hurt everyone, you want this to help everyone, including the employee. I can't help you there, but this is not an old topic at all, search in any bookstore.

In closing I go back to that personal friend and president. His organization fired me. He did not make the decision himself, but he was right; it helped me. I did go back two years later for small jobs and eventually did an internship that fulfilled my last college graduation requirement.

Good luck and Merry Christmas to both you and this developer!

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