How to Get (and Not Get) Someone Fired

Coworkers having informal meeting
••• Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

We have all had those coworkers who have driven us crazy in some way, or have made work a less-than-desirable place to be. But sometimes, a person can make the workplace so unbearable that you want them to be fired.

If you want someone to be fired, there are specific steps you should take to make sure you remain on good terms with your employer and with your company. Read below for advice on what to do when you want to get someone fired—and what you might be able to do instead.

Reflect on the Situation

Before trying to get someone fired, take some time to reflect on the situation. Ask yourself why you want this person fired. Do you simply find the person annoying? If it is a personal issue—say, you simply find the person to be obnoxious, or you feel that the person does not like you—this is not a fireable offense. This might be something you will simply have to learn to live with at work.

On the other hand, if someone creates a hostile work environment, or interferes with others’ work, it might be a more serious, even fireable issue.

Talk to the Person

If you cannot ignore or live with the problem, first try discussing the issue with the person. Your goal should be to resolve the problem, rather than to get the person fired. Tell the person what the issue is, explain how it affects you (and/or other coworkers), and ask them to help you come to a solution.

For example, if a coworker is showing up late to group meetings, pull the person aside and explain how this affects your entire group.

Explain that you need that person to arrive on time so that you can all be productive together.

If multiple people feel the issue is a problem, ask one or two other people to come with you to talk to your coworker. Keep the group small, so the coworker doesn’t feel attacked. But having more than one person there will show the coworker that this is not just your personal problem with him or her.

Go to Your Manager

If you talk to the person and nothing changes (or if you feel like addressing the issue with them might lead to hostility), then you might consider speaking with your boss. Below are some tips for how to talk to your boss about a coworker you think should be fired:

  • Meet in person. Arrange a time to speak to your boss in person about this issue. Try to arrange the time in advance, so you do not catch your boss at a bad time.
  • Remove any emotion. You do not want to sound like you are whining about this person. Instead, calmly explain how the person is causing a problem at work, not for you personally, but for the company. Is his or her regular tardiness leading to missed group meetings? Is his or her offense language upsetting clients? Focus less on your emotions and more on the larger impact of the person’s actions.
  • Provide examples. Try to provide specific examples of times the person you are talking about acted in the particular way you describe. This might require documenting this person’s behavior for a couple days or weeks before your meeting. In your documentation, note the date, time, and details of specific events. But keep your examples concise—you don’t want to complain to your boss for hours about this person.
  • Mention others (if allowed). If coworkers have told you this person’s actions or behaviors also bother them, ask those coworkers if you can mention their names in the meeting. This will give your concern more credibility. However, don’t mention other people unless they give you permission.
  • Focus on solutions. Don’t ask your boss to fire this person. Instead, ask for help addressing the problem. For example, you might say, “Could you help me brainstorm some ways to address with coworker X this issue of her tardiness at our group meetings?” If your employer asks what you think he or she should do, you can state your opinion. However, keep in mind that you cannot make your employer fire someone—it is up to the employer.

Focus on Yourself

Once you have met with your boss, try to let the issue go.

Trust your employer to handle the problem, and know that he or she will ultimately make the decision whether or not the person should be fired.

If the person is not fired, try your best to focus on your own work, and don’t let his or her habits or behaviors distract you. If the person is not fired and you feel you cannot continue to work alongside the person, consider whether or not you should resign.

When It Can’t Wait

There are, of course, times when you have to act quickly. For example, if the person is threatening your safety, or the safety of others, you need to tell your manager right away.

Similarly, if the person is doing anything illegal (including harassing you or others, or discriminating against you or others), consider going straight to your company’s human resources (HR) department. Before meeting in person with an HR representative, send an email to HR so that you start a paper trail (which might come in handy if you need to take legal action).

Also, if the person you want to get fired is your employer, you will have to go either to your boss’s boss, or to HR. Ask if you can make your complaint confidentially, so that your role in the complaint does not come back to your boss. However, again, think carefully about whether you are simply annoyed with your boss, or you think he or she is truly damaging the company (or breaking the law) in some way. If you just find him or her annoying, you might need to simply keep your concerns to yourself.