When I took the assignment to write this article I was very excited. I knew there would be lots of articles about HR, paperwork, verbal warnings, writing employees up and so forth. All of that is for the end result of firing the employee; to make sure you have your ducks in a row so you or your company doesn’t get sued. All of that is good advice. I am going to attempt to give you a different point of view so that if you do have to fire someone, it will be one of the easiest decisions you can make.
One of my former bosses at Circuit City, Juan Fierro, once told me “It is easy to fire someone, what is hard is making sure they deserve it.” That is as true of a statement as water is wet. He also said “I will fire you with enthusiasm or I will fire you with enthusiasm!” All too often managers jump the gun and let people go, then hide behind the excuse of “I don’t have time to babysit.” Those are the majority of the managers that are out there. That is how they were trained and that is how they will train. It is a style of management called Reporter Management. They make decisions based only on numbers and results. Supportive Management utilizes training and encouragement to achieve desired results and numbers. Both can be effective but Supportive Management will achieve you greater results and build higher team morale. This article on how to terminate an employee is designed around the Supportive Management style.
A great manager will take you from the first day you were hired and they will make sure you are trained. A great manager will also make sure the training never stops. Business is always changing and evolving and the way you conduct your business will inevitably have to conform to those changes. This is why you never stop training. Training is one of the most important pieces to having a super successful business yet it is the first thing most companies abandon after the initial hire and train phase. All business should be evaluated constantly, quickly looking for ways to improve the end result or productivity. Of course, that is another conversation for another day. The steps for managing your employee’s productivity are quite simple. And if they don’t work out then firing them is a very simple decision.
1. You hire someone that is open to change and evolution. – Employees that only know how to do things one certain way and are generally not open to learning new ways or techniques are typically not going to be your best hire. Great employees are always open to change and the evolution of business.
2. Train your employees – Make sure you provide the best training you can and always keep the training coming. When something new is discovered, teach it. When a mistake is made, 5 minutes of training can save you or even make you millions of dollars, literally.
3. Set clear expectations – Make sure your employees know exactly what the job entails and what type of performance is expected from them either on a daily basis, or per project, etc.
4. Hold your employees accountable – This is where most managers go wrong. Holding an employee accountable is an absolute necessity. Not only for an opportunity missed but for success as well. When an employee achieves success you should reward them with open praise. Do not fall into the old standby of “They were just doing their job.” Employees need positive reinforcement. Never underestimate the power of a high five! When an employee fails to complete an objective or bungles a task then a simple private discussion is warranted. Something quick to find out what happened followed by a quick training session (5 minutes is probably too long) then document it on paper. Now you have it documented that you spoke to them, and retrained them. Depending on how bad the mistake was you can even schedule a follow up discussion to confirm they are on the right track. Rinse and repeat.
5. When all else fails… – When you have trained, set clear expectations, provided continual training and development, had multiple (more than 3) records of discussion and retraining, then it is now time to do an evaluation. This isn’t the yearly evaluation you’re thinking of. Keep it simple. Pull their file and do a job evaluation. If they are trying hard for you and they are progressing then it will be evident. But if they are continually making mistakes and you have to keep training with them over the same pieces, then it is obvious what you have to do. They are holding you and your team down from achieving maximum success and it is time to cut ties.
6. Cut the chord – Sit them down with their file and all of their records of discussions/write ups and let them go. You now have documented proof that you set clear expectations, you spoke to them verbally when mistakes were made, you trained them, and you followed up. There is really nothing more that you can do and you can feel assured that you did everything possible to help them be as successful as they could be. Which means you did your job as a manager.
If you follow this process, you will find that you rarely have to fire anyone. People will follow a true leader and that is something you are displaying to them. Employees want to know you have their best interest at heart. Following these steps shows them that and they will run through brick walls for you. The bottom line is that too many managers look at the employee as the one at fault and they need to be fired. Very few look at themselves to see if they gave the employee the best chance for success before firing them. Turning that around will increase morale infinitely and ensure success for your entire team or business.