5 Tips for Successfully Terminating an Employee
Firing an employee is probably the most dreaded event a manager faces. Regardless of the reasons behind the termination, no one truly relishes the confrontation or the hurt feelings or the aftermath of clean up that follows. Additionally, the concern of potential lawsuits, unemployment demands, slander and libel is oftentimes enough to keep the manager from cutting the cord until the situation gets out of control. While it’s impossible to promise you a method of firing employees that makes the situation pleasant, here are a few suggestions that can help you avoid a long and drawn-out disaster.
Clearly communicate company policies and expectations to your employees.
This starts with a thorough employee handbook that every employee is required to read and acknowledge their compliance with. Additionally, you need to give regular feedback that’s clear and empowering, not vague and demeaning. Confusion and ignorance are often the cause of minor infractions, and the employees would gladly improve their performance and adhere to company policy if they were made aware of the issues. Don’t fall into the trap of frustration with an employee’s poor performance without explaining the problem to them and offering further assistance to make necessary corrections. Not only will clear communication resolve a majority of the issues on its own, but it will also show that you gave the employee plenty of opportunities for improvement, should the need arise.
Document every infraction and your subsequent actions with the employee.
I also highly recommend that you have the employee sign all hard copies to acknowledge that they understand what you have discussed with them. This is not an area where you want to cut corners, because should a lawsuit for wrongful termination come into play, you will be very thankful that you have authoritative proof of a legitimate reason for firing the employee that they were fully aware of.
Keep the Human Resources department and your managers informed throughout the process.
This gives you the necessary approval and backup support that will help minimize conflict, confusion, and the inevitable upheaval that accompanies a firing. Having one of them present as a third party witness who is taking copious notes will prevent a scenario of “your word against theirs.”
Be forthright, specific, and calm.
As this event is about to drastically change their lives, the employees being terminated deserve a specific reiteration of why they are no longer employed at your company. Vague statements will come across as either indecisive or retaliatory, depending on the tone in which you say them, and an unpleasant situation could escalate into a name-smearing session that damages your reputation. Always keep your calm and treat the employee with dignity, clearly citing the examples that you have documented with their signature that demonstrate why they cannot remain in your employment.
Execute your exit strategy immediately.
You need to have a checklist prepared for immediate action steps following a termination, such as collecting company property, erasing access codes and passwords, ensuring a peaceful exit, and informing the rest of the company about who will be taking over his or her responsibilities. Follow the checklist precisely and file it with the rest of the documentation in the former employee’s record. Of course, should the termination be due to criminal behavior, you will also need to alert the proper authorities and provide your documentation to them.
Although these situations are never pleasant, doing all you can to keep them as peaceful and painless as possible will help everyone to move on quickly. It also frequently saves you from a lot of hassle and expenses like lawsuits, unemployment demands, online reputation smearing, and more. Regardless of your personal feelings toward the former employee, maintaining your dignity and graciousness will certainly pay off in the long run.
What other suggestions do you have for best practices when firing a bad employee? Feel free to post your discreet comments below.