Letting an Employee Go

employee performanceFiring someone is never easy, but it can be done in a way that protects both your company and the dignity of the employee. The first step is to make sure you have tried to help the employee remedy the situation. If the issue is skills based, have you given them the appropriate feedback and training or made sure they know where to get it? Have you made it clear that following through on that is a job requirement? If it’s become apparent the person truly lacks the skills for their current position, is there any other position they could be successful in and are qualified for? If the answer to all of the above questions is no, then you can proceed to the three-step termination process described in Chapter Four.

If the problem is behavior based, make sure you’ve talked specifically about the behavior you are looking for, the behavior you cannot tolerate, and what the outcome will be if it does not change. Proceed with the three-step process and be sure to let the employee know that there is not a deadline by which to rectify the intolerable behavior. The change needs to occur immediately and be ongoing.

Once you’ve made the decision to terminate someone, be sure to check with your HR professional, outside resource, or employment attorney so that you can be sure to adhere to the proper procedures and applicable law for this situation. Then call the person into your office and be sure to have another person present. It’s always good to have a witness to what was said, for safety’s sake. Let the employee know that you are doing one of two things: 1.) eliminating the position; or 2.) letting them go for cause as described in the written warnings. Ask the person if they have any questions, but do not go into long explanations. Keep your discussion brief and focused on the specific behavioral shortfall described in the written warning. Let the person know what the terms are (for example if they will receive a severance package as described in your employee handbook) and give them their final paycheck. Mutually agree to a time at a later date for the person to return for their personal items (it is usually embarrassing for them to return to their office or cubicle immediately after being terminated), and then be prepared to escort them out.

None of this is easy for anyone, not least the person being fired. Always remember that you are dealing with a person. People handle upset differently, so be as calm and kind as you can be. Don’t be mean or rude. But also, never justify your position or go into long explanations. If you’ve followed the three-step procedure, once you get to step three, the decision has been made, period.

Excerpted from my book, “Putting Together the Entrepreneurial Puzzle: The Ten Pieces Every Business Needs to Succeed.” Available here on Amazon.