Is There a Right Way to Fire an Employee?
Every manager and company has dealt, at some point, with having to let an employee go. Whether it’s due to the economic situation, particular aspects related to the business or the worker’s specific performance, the time will surely come when you may need to fire someone. It’s never easy or pleasant for either party, but putting it off will only affect your company and prevent the person in question from finding a better opportunity somewhere else.
The process of firing someone is complex and must be done properly, in order to avoid legal complications, such as lawsuits, as well as personal damage, such as hurting people’s feelings and leaving them despondent and adrift.
Preparing for the task
Proper termination of employment is never an impulsive, hasty or on-the-spur-of-the-moment decision. Instead, it should be a well thought out research and documentation endeavor and it should never come as a surprise to the targeted employee. If the reason is his/her poor performance, hold regular meetings or send written reviews to let them know how they are doing. If the reason has nothing to do with the person, but rather the market conditions or a business model change, try to give as much notice as possible.
To make sure you have all the aspects covered, try answering the following questions before the big moment: What is the rationale behind this decision and the evidence to support it? What are the characteristics of the employee (gender, age, complaints against the company, etc.)? Am I treating all employees in the same manner (am I giving everyone a fair chance)? Is this termination helping me accomplish the business goals? Am I following all necessary policies and procedures?
How to actually break the news
First of all, the resolution should be communicated face to face. Phone calls, e-mails or asking someone to pass down the news will not suffice. The employee must be able to look you in the eyes, read your body language and ask questions which will surely arise. You must be willing and able to discuss any queries and deal with any reaction. This demonstrates respect and consideration for the person’s predicament.
Being fired is never an easy thing to hear, therefore the situation should be treated with empathy, sensitivity and tact. Be straightforward and considerate, but don’t drag explanations out too long, or might end up saying something you didn’t actually plan to and which might expose you to legal problems. Once your decision is final, communicate it firmly and stick to it.
Tie up loose ends
After letting someone go, you must reassure both the person who is leaving and the ones who are staying.
The fired employee must be told what to expect and what is expected of them: whether they should hand over any company-issued property (phone, laptop, car), what paperwork will have to be signed, the passwords he will need to disclose, etc. Offer the person a clean and smooth transition, trying to help out wherever you can.
Suggest an opportunity for a new job or position in the same company or a contractor that the business collaborates with, offer recommendations or even a severance package, if possible. Make sure that the employee has all necessary contact information for any questions or problems regarding pay, benefits and documents that he might have afterward. End the meeting on the most positive note possible. Wish the employee good luck and shake his or her hand. If you can honestly say something positive about the employee’s stay within the company, then by all means do so.
Let the remaining staff know what has happened, why it has happened and whether their future in the company is safe. Once the cut has been made, be transparent and offer a certain sense of security to remaining workers, otherwise none of them will continue being productive or engaged. Rumor mills and insecurity are detrimental to everyone involved, wreaking havoc and bringing down the company as a whole. Don’t go into the details of why the employee was fired, as this is both illegal and unethical, but focus more on what is to come and what might be done to avoid such unfortunate situations in the future.
Doing what is necessary
Firing an employee is tough, and there’s no guarantee you won’t be sued no matter what you do, but if it has to be done, you will do both yourself and your business a great disservice by putting off the inevitable.
Get ready, do your homework, cross all your Ts and dot all your Is, be respectful and compassionate and have a witness present if you deem it necessary (it might be someone from HR — they are your allies in this situation).
At TRISOFT, we advise you to offer a concise and clear explanation to the employee in question and focus on the future along with the remainder of your team.