Firing an employee is never easy, and it shouldn’t be, but the truth is, sometimes it’s necessary. It affects not only that individual, but you, your company, and your employees. Having the most positive outcome is of utmost importance. This can be a very difficult task for an experienced manager but especially trying for new managers. Here are some best practices to help you with the process.
To fire someone with cause you need to have proof of that cause; there are a few exceptions under a zero-tolerance policy, so know where you and your company stand. Knowing not only, what is written in the policy, but how similar cases have been handled previously is imperative. HR Magazine published a great article on some situations that seem like open and shut cases, such as an employee changing in front of customers, but the companies ended up paying far more in legal fees/settlements than they would have by simply taking a step back and considering all of the consequences. It is best to have a paper trail documenting the entire process. Make sure to give the employee proper time and training or have a performance improvement plan in place. If there isn’t an HR professional in the firm call a firm like ThinkHR or another consulting firm and ask questions first. The end goal is for the employee to succeed, firing should be a worst and last case scenario. Even if you think their behavior is inexcusable and cause for instant firing, you’ll want to verify. As stated above unless a strong zero-tolerance policy has been put in place and enforced, almost no termination should be instant. Firing an employee should be fully thought through. Did you give the employee the resources and time needed to make an improvement? Is there a paper trail documenting this? What action has been taken in similar cases? If you can answer all of these questions you are headed in the right direction. If not back up and get some answers.
Okay, now you can answer all the above questions, you have doubled checked your policies, and the employee still needs to go. What’s next? More planning and then, the meeting. When you are firing someone, there is no such thing as too much preparation. You should go into the meeting knowing what you will say, and while it is good to anticipate some reactions from the employee, it is important to never get sucked into an argument. You both know how you got into this situation, be clear and concise. It is good to listen and let them say what they will, but do not react.
It is also crucial to know your termination policies. Often times it is good to have an HR representative there, they can act as a witness so that whatever is said cannot be misconstrued and they should be able to answer any questions pertaining to benefits and final paychecks. Keep in mind other sorts of forthcoming compensation such as a commission or bonus; if these are not available you will need to have a statement ready. Usually the ex-employees are walked out, but you should be aware of how this procedure works. Some things to think about are: does the employee still have access to systems and technology, will they need to clean their desk or want to say goodbye to coworkers? You should have all of these items in place. The meeting should not be a surprise, and from when it starts to when the employee leaves should be prearranged. This is not a comfortable time for either party, by having a process in place it will make the whole ordeal less awkward.
The last thing you should do after firing an employee is consider explaining what happened to your team. Firing someone can lead to others feeling a sense of job insecurity. You do not want what one employee did or didn’t do to affect an entire team or department. If there are mixed feelings regarding the situation or rumors you will want to clear the air. This is not meant to be a gossip session, but let others know the basis for the firing (if appropriate) and let them know how you will be moving forward. This is especially important if the position will be left empty and others will need to take on more responsibilities.