You’re fired: Not the words any employee wants to hear, and not the words any supervisor wants to deliver (except for Donald Trump perhaps).
The reality, however, is that even the best places to work have to be ready to let people go. Employees underperform. Finances can dictate a termination. Or there can be serious misconduct or wrongdoings.
Whatever the reason, not acting can make matters worse.
Underperformers can drain energy and resources as colleagues need to pick up the slack. Negative people can bring others down and lower morale and productivity. Not addressing serious misconduct can lead to perceptions of an unfair work environment.
Firing someone can be one of the most challenging and stressful things you have to do as a manager or supervisor. I’ve had to do it myself, and I know the angst it can foster. Here are some tips to ensure the situation is handled professionally and fairly.
Everything leading up to this point should be well documented. For example, a performance issue should be documented through performance reviews and disciplinary discussions. Additionally, you need to ensure compliance with employment standards as well as your own written policies and procedures. The situation has likely cost you enough already, and you certainly do not want to add any legal bills.
You also need to conduct the process in a manner that keeps dignity intact and reflects your workplace culture and your brand.
Plan out all the details. Consider things like IT security including passwords, badges, and access cards; pay and benefits including final pay, unused vacation, and any paperwork required for unemployment purposes; and how to deal with company property. Will you be a reference when the person applies for another job? Don’t forget to check for any non-compete clauses or non-disclosure agreements.
Depending on the organization, you may need a week or more to prepare. Factor this in. All documents should be ready. This is one situation where you cannot say, “I’ll get back to you on that.”
Manage the message
When you meet, the purpose is to inform the employee of the decision. It is not a discussion, debate, or review of the decision. The shorter the better. Meet in person, and you should have a prepared script of what you will say.
How you communicate the news to the rest of the organization is important, too. They do not need all the details, but will need reassurances about their future.
Keep emotions in check
This is likely the hardest part. First and foremost, your duty is to the organization so be firm and business-like. It sounds impersonal, but it’s best done this way.
In most situations, the process and events leading up to firing an employee should mean that the individual is not completely caught off guard. However, you should be prepared for emotional reactions.
Finally, don’t forget about the rest of your team. How you emotionally handle the entire situation will not go unnoticed.
And once all is planned, said, and done with dignity intact, and once emotions have settled, you need to move on, too. You have done the right thing for the organization, and can now focus your efforts on saying, “You’re hired!”
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