Do you know how to fire an employee?
No one really wants to think about how to fire an employee. I still remember the first time I had to fire someone.
As I sat across the table from the errant art director – my eyes bleary and my brain fuzzy from a night of tossing and turning – my checklist on how to fire an employee flew out of my brain. The panic on his face made my own panic even worse. Somehow I got through it without embarrassing myself, or him, too much. Afterward, I cried my heart out in the ladies’ room.
One of the hardest things an employer ever has to decide is how to fire an employee who isn’t performing up to par. But keeping an employee who isn’t doing his job properly, or is causing turmoil within your organization is never a good idea. First of all, it isn’t fair to your other employees who are doing a good job. That’s because they’re usually the ones who have to take up the slacker’s slack, or who have to put up with the disruptive behavior.
So what's the best plan on how to fire an employee? First, confronting the situation head-on is imperative. You don’t want your good employees to build up anger and hurt feelings and start leaving your company. Once you’ve determined there is a situation that can’t be rectified, you need to take immediate and decisive action. Never allow one employee to cause a situation within your that takes the focus off building the business. Here are some other things for you to consider when deciding how to fire an employee.
Deciding how to fire an employee should never be done spur-of-the-moment. Plan carefully before you fire, and make sure you have done your homework. It will save you time and heartache in the long run. This preparation checklist should help:
- Consult your attorney before you start any termination proceedings to make sure you cover all your bases in case any problems or issues arise later.
- Document any performance discussions you have with the employee and keep good records.
- Gather any documentation (i.e. performance reviews, written warnings, complaints, etc.) and go over it carefully. Make notes to yourself about the things you want to cover during the termination interview so you won’t forget anything in the heat of the moment.
- Determine if there will be any termination benefits like severance pay, health insurance, vacation day, etc.
- Decide ahead of time if you will allow the employee to pack his /her own belongings, or if you will have someone else do it for them. If allowed to pack their own belongings, most prefer to do so after hours, so be prepared to have someone there to help and lock up afterward.
- Likewise, decide if you will allow the employee to leave on his own, or if he will be escorted from the property. This really depends on the circumstances surrounding the termination, and the way the termination meeting goes. Be prepared for either.
- Assign someone to collect any office keys, and any other company property. You will also need someone to change computer passwords and access codes.
This may seem a little cold and calculated, but deciding how to fire an employee beforehand will make the moment itself much easier on both you and the employee. It will also help protect your company. Now you’re ready to proceed to the next steps.
Scheduling the meeting
Once you have all the pieces in place, schedule a termination meeting that includes the employee, his/her supervisor, and if you have one, someone from human resources to serve as witness and to make sure you dot all the i’s.
Conducting the meeting
In deciding how to fire an employee, I recommend conducting it in a manner that is straightforward, yet compassionate and respectful.
First, tell the employee he is being terminated, and give him the reason for the termination. Be prepared for backlash and anger. Keep your cool and your compassion. Don’t let your anger surface. Try to let him maintain as much dignity as possible by letting him speak and ask questions. If the situation presents itself, talk about what went wrong…it may help him avoid the same situation in his next job. If at all possible, try to end the relationship with dignity.
Informing the other employees
There are a couple of different ways to handle this: Email or in person. I’ve done it both ways, depending on the circumstances surrounding the termination, and whether or not the employee had direct reports. You have to determine which way works best, based on your individual circumstances.
“In person” can be meeting with each person within a department, or calling a department or company meeting and informing en masse. Company-wide emails are a little more impersonal, but are sometimes more appropriate since you can better control what you say regarding the situation. Whatever way you go, remember to maintain the dignity of the terminated person as much as possible, and to take the high road. Keep the details of the termination confidential. Simply let your remaining employees know that the employee has left the company and will be seeking employment elsewhere. Depending on the situation, realize that you may also have to assure them that their jobs are not in jeopardy. People will want to know the details, and will certainly speculate among themselves, but don’t fuel the flames.
Having to know how to fire an employee is an unpleasant reality of owning a business, and one that you will most likely have to deal with someday, if you haven’t already. But it doesn’t have to keep you up at night like my first experience did. Proceed with compassion, dignity, and firmness, and you'll make the situation less painful for everyone involved.
Please note: Since there are a lot of legal issues surrounding employee termination (and employment laws vary from state to state, and country to country) it is always a good idea to seek the advice of legal counsel. This article offers you common sense advice based on my knowledge and experiences, but it's important to understand that I am not an attorney and can't give you full legal perspectives. When in doubt, seek legal advice.
In my opinion, every small business would do well to have an attorney available for these types of situations and ongoing legal representation. If you don't have an attorney, ask friends and family for recommendations. If you're on a budget and need help with simple legal documents like incorporations, LLCs, trademarks, etc., you may want to check out this link:Legal Documents @ Lawyer-Free Prices
- Visit The Attorneys Forum for free Legal Help. Find qualified Attorneys in your area.
How to Layoff an Employee
There's a big difference between firing an underperforming employee and laying off a valued member of your company. Go here to learn some layoff tips that will help make a sad task a little easier for everyone involved.
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