In the latter cases, you can try to turn the situation around at the outset. The key is to act quickly. Tell them clearly, openly, professionally and without anger what you expect them to accomplish; how; and why that’s not happening right now. Give them a deadline, and stick to it. Document what you’ve said and what you expect.
If this intervention works, consider it a gift. If it doesn’t work, remember as you reach for the ax: “Employees fire themselves.”
—Adapted from “When to Swing the Ax,” Mary Crane, www.forbes.com.