FORTUNE Small Business:

How to handle a problem employee

Here's the 411 on legally - yet tactfully - firing a difficult worker.

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(FORTUNE Small Business) -- Dear FSB: I have an employee who does her job well but lacks tact. There has been tension between her and her co-workers and no one wants to work with her anymore. She called my house in tears claiming she is fed up and she is looking for other job opportunities. Is it safe to assume that she has given me her notice to leave?

- Joanna, Portsmouth, N.H.

Dear Joanna: This is a tricky situation. Even though she has verbally stated her intent to leave the job, this does not constitute a proper resignation. Until she gives you a written notice or verbally tells you she is leaving, you cannot assume she is. Sorry.

That said, "This is a good opportunity to get rid of her legally," says Lou Adler of Adlerconcepts.com, an Irvine, Calif. firm that provides companies around the world with training and consulting services for their hiring needs.

Based on your last conversation, it is evident she is fed up. If her sour attitude is a negative influence on the company and is affecting her work and the performance of those around her, it is safe to legally terminate her.

"As the boss, explain that you will accommodate her for a maximum of four weeks and that you will be looking for her replacement in the meantime," says Roberta Chinsky founder of Matuson of Human Resource Solutions of Northampton, Mass., which specializes in human resource services.

If you do plan on firing this employee, we recommend you explore problememployee.net for more tips on handling the situation. Also, be sure to check out our package on handling bad employeesTo top of page

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.