If you asked all of your clients about their No. 1 financial concern, the amount of their retirement savings would likely top the list. The rising cost of health care, paying for college and taxes would also certainly rank high.

But for the vast majority of Americans, another top issue would be job security. After all, job creation remains relatively weak, and the number of people who are unemployed (13.9 million) or under-employed (8.5 million) is frighteningly high. Those new stats don't even include another 2.2 million Americans who wanted and were available for work, but are regarded as "marginally attached" to the labor force because they hadn't looked for a job in the past month.

While hearing "You're hired" is tough these days, the harsh tales of frustrated job seekers has not gone untold. Instead, I wanted to better understand the flip side - how bosses come to say, "You're fired."

Most workers are forced to the sidelines because of economic issues, but some just weren't competent. Many bosses wisely make a big effort to be as sure as they can that they're hiring the right person. But once workers are in the door, even many bosses who give regular performance reviews struggle with the uncomfortable burden of cutting underperforming staffers.

Hank Gilman has struggled less than many of us. Gilman, a top editor at Fortune, is the author of a new book with a clever title: You Can't Fire Everyone - And Other Lessons from an Accidental Manager.

Whether you're an exec at a big corporation or a manager at a small financial planning firm, Gilman argues it's "a disservice" to not fire an employee who isn't cut out for his or her position, or has no potential to advance. Of course, those same workers may be curtailing your productivity (more hours at work for you!) - and your bottom line.

To help ensure you don't get to the firing stage, was your hiring process as thorough and realistic as it should be? Gilman says in an interview that, when speaking with job candidates, he asks about the genesis of ideas to help verify their authenticity and to gauge presentation skills.

"Focus on their thinking," he says, also probing to learn about their temperament and how they handle pressure. Financial Planning contributing writer Jim Grote also uncovers methods used to delve into job candidates' personalities in his profile this month of Financial Management Partners founder Katherine Lintz.

There is no secret to making employee termination a happy experience, but Gilman's advice on firing (and hiring) is common sense: "No matter what your management style," he writes, "it will work if you do it well, are honest, treat your employees with respect and are consistent."

 

- Scott Wenger