Firing a Counselor: Right Thing To Do – Still A Miserable Experience

September 24, 2019

Last week I had to let a counselor go from Pet Camp. It was the first time in ages that I personally had to fire someone and, frankly, it sucked. It was the right thing to do – for both the counselor and Pet Camp – but it was still pretty miserable.

I guess firing someone is supposed to be unpleasant. You are disrupting someone’s life, impacting their livelihood, probably screwing with friendships and who knows what else. But sometimes it is still the best thing for everyone involved.

This individual was fine with the dogs (if you’re not fine with the dogs being asked to leave Pet Camp is a no-brainer and happens very quickly) but she was terribly disruptive to the team and was, as the folks in HR say, “toxic” to the team, and pet care is a team sport.

So why, if I know all of this, do I still feel bad? I suspect it has something to do with Pet Camp’s values. I’ve read the books that say, “hire slow and fire fast.” You know, take your time to make the right hiring decision, but when someone is not working out or undermining morale or performance get rid of them immediately.

At Pet Camp I have to admit we both hire slow and fire slow (maybe even slower). We’re big believers in a second chance (maybe even a 3rd or 4th chance) when it comes to people.  We want to think that things will improve, maybe with a bit of coaching or some extra training.

I suspect we can improve someone’s skill set with more coaching and training. We can teach someone to be better at clipping a dog’s nails or how to better observe body language to predict when two dogs need to be distracted from each other to avoid a scuffle. But what can you do about a “toxic” attitude? Can you every really address that?  Do you keep someone who has great skills, but is a burden to the team?

I get that the five of you who might read this blog post probably won’t be sending me any pearls of wisdom, but thanks for letting me vent for a few paragraphs.

Thanks for reading.


Since 1997 Pet Camp has been providing award winning overnight and day care for San Francisco’s dogs and cats and hiring amazing counselors.  If you’re a San Francisco pet parent with need for doggie day care, overnight care for your dog or cat, bathing, transportation, or training give us call.  The Pet Camp Express makes Pet Camp easily accessible to every neighborhood from Pacific Heights to Mission Bay.

6 Responses to “Firing a Counselor: Right Thing To Do – Still A Miserable Experience”

  1. Greg

    A wise manager once said to me that there are three things to look for in a worker: skills, aptitude, and attitude. And only two of those things can he influence through training and counseling. I also believe in second and third chances, but the third strike is the last. So it sounds like Pet Camp followed excellent and caring procedures.

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  2. Grant Garl

    Speaking as a fellow pet care facility owner you are darned if you do let someone go too soon and darned if you don’t. However, it is remarkable how the staff adjusts and hardly notices being short one person and really appreciate the ‘stinker’ is gone!

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  3. Hailey

    Once you think you need to let someone go you rarely come back from that decision. It’s true that I’ve never thought, “wow I’m really glad I didn’t fire them”.

    Gotta go with your gut. I don’t disagree however, letting people go is hard on everyone. It should be. But hopefully they learned something in the process that will make them better in their next work place.

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  4. DJ

    I teach the same thing to apprentices. To be considered a competent Journey-Level Electrician you need skills, knowledge and (a positive) attitude. I can teach the first two and perhaps adjust the third, but it really has to come from the person. No matter how skilled you are, if you don’t fit in, you’re going to be one of the first to be laid off.

    I am very confident that I give my students every opportunity to succeed. It’s on them if they fail. It’s on them if they succeed. It sucks when you cut someone loose, but when the cons outweigh the pros, it’s the right decision.

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