One of the most challenging tasks managers face is terminating an employee. It is never easy, but sometimes necessary. What is all too easy is putting it off when it does become necessary. Here are nine times managers need to fire people.

No. 1: Theft

It seems obvious that employee theft should not be tolerated. There’s more than one kind of theft. If an employee works on personal matters during company time without clearing it with his or her supervisor, it is theft.

Some use of company time for personal work gets overlooked because an employee will balance it out by working on company matters during personal time. Some employees can be trusted not to abuse the flexibility. Others must have limits spelled out. Exceed the limits too many times and it is cause for termination.

Depending on your company policy, the personal use of company vehicles is a form of theft. Some contractors allow it. Others do not.

Theft is not limited to the company. If an employee ever steals from a customer, this should be grounds for immediate termination.

No. 2: Poor performance

Some employees do good work but do it slowly. If they are too slow and show no signs of improving, consider terminating them and hiring a replacement who will perform better.

Other employees do poor quality work requiring callbacks or time to track down and repair errors, such as data entry mistakes. In contrast to the employees who work too slowly, mistake-prone employees often work too fast. Poor quality and mistakes are expensive. If an employee does not learn and improve, consider terminating the person.

No. 3: Lying

Telling lies is a violation of trust. If you cannot trust an employee, you cannot keep the person on the team. As a manager, you need honesty. To get it, employees cannot be afraid to tell you the truth. You must be measured in your response. However, if employees continually lie to you or others on the team, they cannot remain on the team.

No. 4: Breaking the rules

Every company has rules and policies. For example, people are expected to show up on time. Tardiness is contagious. If one person is allowed to show up five or 10 minutes late, others will soon follow. Either change the policy or enforce it.

A manager is like the referee in a football game. The rules are like the boundaries on the field of play. If the employee steps out of bounds, he can’t continue. For example, if the company has a policy against facial jewelry and a plumber shows up with an earring, he can either remove the earring or leave. You aren’t making the decision, the employee is making it. He can conform and remain employed or he can quit and do what he wants.

No. 5: Generating drama

Some employees are drama generators. They may appear innocuous, but they stir up division within the company. They seem to thrive on finding ways to pit one person against another. Fire them and watch morale improve immediately while your life improves.

Keeping someone on the team who cannot be successful is doing a disservice to the employee and everyone else on the team. By firing him, you are freeing him to find a job where he does fit and can succeed.

No. 6: Putting the company at risk

If an employee is a bad driver, you cannot risk sending him on a service truck. Likewise, if he is a substance abuser you have to worry about the vehicle. If a substance abuser works in the field, he might be casing company homes so that he can return later for midnight pilfering to support his habit. You cannot afford this risk.

An employee who handles money for the company (or accepts credit cards) and cannot manage personal finances is likewise a risk. If you keep the person, watch him closely. Better, move him to a different position. At the very least, get the person some training in personal financial management, such as Dave Ramsey classes. When people are desperate for money, they will do desperate things. This puts the company at risk.

No. 7: Displaying a bad attitude

If an employee’s attitude is in the toilet and will not improve, get rid of him. Bad attitudes are contagious and his will infect others in your company. Often, this comes down to firing one person now or many later.

No. 8: Being a jerk

This is right in line with drama generation. People who are mean to others in the company need to learn how to be polite and nice to others or leave. Jerks will drive away good people. Letting a jerk go sends a strong message to everyone else that treating people poorly will not be tolerated. Being a jerk to co-workers is unacceptable. Being a jerk to customers or suppliers is equally unacceptable. Refer jerks to your most despised competitor as you escort them out the door.

No. 9: Causing your gut to say it’s time

There is a point when you know someone is not going to work out. Too often, managers hang on, trying to save someone, ignoring their gut feeling. As soon as your gut says it’s time, make the decision. Delaying merely prolongs the agony.

Firing a bad employee is freeing him

Inevitably, when a person is terminated, he finds a better fit elsewhere. While the termination is hard, in almost all cases, the person is better off a year later. Keeping someone on the team who cannot be successful is doing a disservice to the employee and everyone else on the team. By firing him, you are freeing him to find a job where he does fit and can succeed.

Your team knows

Often managers worry about how co-workers will react to a termination. Usually, people can already see it coming and wonder why the termination hasn’t happened before now. “It’s about time,” some will say. The only one agonizing over the termination is you. When it’s time, it’s time.