As a business owner or someone part of a management team, it’s important to set yourself as someone who means business, while gaining the respect of your employees. And while managing the workplace and setting standards in order to make sure everything runs smoothly is a top priority, there will be times when firing someone will come on up on the list of unpleasant things to do.
Firing someone is not a pleasant task. In most cases it will be just as difficult for you as it is for the person being fired. It’s important to take certain steps in order to handle it properly. The number one thing to remember is protocol. Protocol must be followed in order to avoid receiving any backlash later on or a wrongful termination lawsuit. Another thing to remember is tact is key. Having to fire someone can be because of a variety of reasons. Make sure you take the proper steps depending on what that reason may be.
Insubordination/Poor Work Performance:
Give a Verbal Warning:
This is perhaps the one situation that makes it a bit easier to fire an employee, though not much. The first thing to do would be to give a warning. When you see an employee is not following their job description, being late all the time, being disrespectful etc…, what you have to do is sit the person down and talk about what areas need to improve while being specific so there’s no miscommunication, and also have a written report to put on file as a backup to that particular employee’s history with that company.
If at first you would like to give a verbal warning without a written report, that’s fine. But I would recommend always keeping a written report whenever you have to have a one on one meeting with someone, especially when it involves a poor work performance. While I was an Assistant Director for an aftercare program, one of my duties was to discuss with my employees areas in which they were lacking, and I always made sure there was a written report of each meeting, just in case there was any dispute later on. And yes, there were a few. But with my backup reports, the disputes were very easily put to rest.
Make a note of telling your employee what will be the consequences if they don’t improve. You can even go so far as to give them a specific time frame in order for them to straighten up. It doesn’t hurt to be flexible, because remember, you want to be firm with your employees while still maintaining their respect for you as their supervisor. Being firm doesn’t have to involve being mean and nasty.
It’s also important to NOT give praise to an employee’s work performance simply because you’re too uncomfortable with giving them the truth. Remember you’re the boss. You set the rules, you call the shots. Don’t be afraid to set someone straight and that’s what a verbal warning is all about. One last thing to remember about that is to make sure the meeting is private. Be tactful and not discuss something this personal in front of the rest of the staff.
If Verbal Warning isn’t Heeded:
If the protocol is to give a certain amount of warnings before more action is taken, that’s fine. Moving on from that, if the warnings, and written reports were not heeded, of course termination has to follow. With this, you’re basically doing what you did in your one on one verbal warning meetings. Only this time instead of writing a report, you’re writing a termination letter.
Make sure to explain everything you feel is necessary in this letter, and begin discussing the employee’s termination as soon as possible, helping them to understand why they’re being fired. Be sure there’s a witness. In this case, having a witness to verify what went on during this process is important in case the ex-employee has a grudge against you and chooses to take their own action. It may be uncomfortable, but be firm, and be short and to the point. Do not, under any circumstances, start a fight or an argument, nor should you engage in an argument if the employee wishes to start one. If things get heated, have a security escort the person out, if necessary.
Some would prefer the firing be done at the beginning of the week. Others may prefer the end of the week. I say, choose the best day that fits that particular situation. Sometimes it’s okay to let the employee finish out the week. And other times it’s better to let them go right away. Go with your own judgement on this one.
TIP: If the employee happens to ask for a reference to a new job, be sure and explain that you will be truthful about what you’ll put in that reference, whether written or verbal. That’s why it’s always important to be up front about their job performance,and not give false praise as stated earlier. This way you won’t be put in an uncomfortable position.
When budget cuts are the issue, it makes it that much harder to fire someone, especially when their job performance is always on point. Here are some tips to get through that as painless are possible.
If you’re aware ahead of time that the financial issues with your place of business is going down the tube, make it your first priority to warn your staff about what’s going on. They deserve to know so that they can be prepared for whatever happens. If possible, give the reasons why the company might not be doing so well. Inform your staff of anything else they have the right to know so they don’t feel any resentment when cuts are being made.
I would recommend beginning cuts with anyone who hasn’t been at your company for very long. Don’t start with anyone who has seniority. Make sure they understand why it’s them being cut and not someone else. It’ll be more than likely that they’ll want to know. So be prepared to answer that and a variety of other questions.
I once was let go from a job because of financial issues, and one thing that I always resented was being lied to about others being in the same boat as me. I was told that I wasn’t the only one who would be let go from the company, and come to find out later, I was the ONLY one. It made me feel as if I was singled out, and targeted for termination despite the fact that I had been there the longest, and I had a great job performance. So when it comes to your employees, don’t lie. If they’re the only one who has to be let go at that time, be truthful about it, and if others are going to be let go, once again, be truthful. The one thing that will make this situation all the more difficult is lieing about what’s really going on. So avoid it at all costs.
Aftermath and Options:
Discuss severance pay. If you can offer some type of severance package that includes health care of some sort that would be great. It’ll help them feel like they’ll have a sense of control during the process of looking for another job, and maybe not feel as if they’re losing everything all at once. No one wants to feel that way.
Be sensitive and apologetic. Help them understand that this is what you have to do, not what you want to do. Try making it a little bit more easier for them by discussing what other options they may have, and if possible, direct them to the best temp agency or an unemployment agency, while giving them tips on what they can do as far as unemployment benefits, until they find another job.
Give good references. That’ll help them find a job faster. Make sure to point out their strong points (highlight), and give good details about their general job performance. Put in a good word with someone looking for another employee. Whatever you do, let the person know you’re behind them 100 percent. Yes, this process is hard for you, but it’s even harder for them. Afterall, they’re the one who lost their source of income, so anything that you can do to make it easier, would be a big help.