Letting go of an employee is never easy. No one likes to give bad news, and employers know the impact that firing can have on finances and self confidence. Even if you are more than ready to fire someone, that actual act can be an emotional and legal minefield. The right preparation can not only cover your business in the event of legal repercussion, but can also help put you in the right frame of mind for the inevitable confrontation of the actual firing. Before you fire someone, follow these steps to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible.
Make sure you have set up a work environment in which everyone knows their duties. If an employee is not meeting deadlines or their work is not up to par, you have to look at yourself and your managers. Are your time requirements reasonable? Do you change your mind so your employees are never sure what the expectations are? If you run a tight ship where everyone knows what their job is and when to get it done, the problem is truly with the employee. This gives you confidence when it come time to let that person go.
Some offenses, such as stealing, physical conflict, etc. will require immediate termination. Decide what actions are grounds for termination, and what deserves a second chance BEFORE you run into an employee issue. You may be tempted to give more leniency to people whom you know will be impacted harder by being fired, but that can lead to trouble among employees. If someone gets fired for an offense, anyone else who commits that offense should be fired as well. When employees know which bad behavior will get them fired immediately, there will be very little room for a wrongful termination suit.
Constructive Criticism and Feedback
If an employee is not giving satisfactory work, you must correct it immediately. Be very precise with what exactly is unsatisfactory, and what needs to happen to correct it. “Your work on this project was great, but it was not done until a week after the deadline. This is unacceptable. I need you to finish your projects by 5pm the day before they are due.” “Your works is acceptable, but you need to be able to work with all members of the team. I would like to see you incorporate ideas from all project members on the next assignment”. If the employee continues to have unacceptable performance, they must then be responsible for the consequences.
Document, Document, Document
Every time an employee has a conflict with a coworker, does not meet a deadline, or does unacceptable work, document it. Record the date of the issue, all parties involved, expectations and how they were not met, and any corrective action taken. If you fire someone and they try to sue for wrongful termination, a record of poor work performance will make it much easier to defend your company.
“One Last Chance”
There will come a time when you have given an employee multiple chances to correct their bad work or attitude, and there has been little improvement. At this point, it’s time to have the “Last Chance” conversation. The employee needs to know that they have one last shot to turn their performance around, and that failure to do so will result in termination. If this is laid out in no uncertain terms, the employee has no one to blame but themselves if they get fired.
If you follow the above guidelines and still have to fire an employee, you can be confident that you have done all you can do. You are not at fault for the poor performance that has been given to you and your company. This will help make the actual termination meeting go much smoother. Even if the employee is angry, or has a sob story, deep down they cannot be surprised. By doing all you can do before firing an employee, you can remain firm but empathetic when it actually has to happen. You remain a professional, protect your business, and get rid of a damaging employee.