Being the boss means making tough decisions like deciding to terminate someone’s employment. I recently got fired for the first time in my life. I don’t think my boss planned on firing me that day, but getting let go turned out to be a huge relief and forced me in a new direction which will ultimately be better for me, and the company where I worked.
Hiring, training, and firing staff costs both time and money. The impact on smaller businesses can be significant. Before axing your favorite annoyance make sure you mitigate your company’s exposure to potential liability by following these basic steps.
Understand Employment Laws
There are loads of Federal and State rules and regulations every business owner and manager need to understand with regard to firing staff legally. Start with the United States Department of Labor (www.dol.gov). The lower left side of the homepage lists topics related to employment issues, including termination. This site covers everything from COBRA to unemployment benefits. Your state’s Department of Labor can provide specific guidelines for when the terminated employee’s last paycheck is due, etc. Complying with these laws keeps costs lower and minimizes the chance your company will be sued.
Firing someone can get emotional quickly. No one likes to tell someone their services are no longer needed, but if you must keep your cool and let data rule the decision. Regardless of whether you choose to terminate an employee due to a personality conflict, poor performance, or negligent conduct, take time to document specific examples of wrongdoing detailing dates, times and events whenever possible.
Compiling documentation also provides an opportunity for objective review and full consideration of varying courses of action. Before choosing to terminate consider whether reassignment, probation, or training might resolve the issue effectively. If ending the person’s employment remains the best course of action prepare your case.
Communicate Company Policy
When you meet with the errant employee to deliver the bad news you may want to include their immediate supervisor and your human resources representative. The employee’s supervisor may be able to address specific instances of wrongdoing and review any intermediate steps taken and to remedy the problem to date.
A written summary of this documentation can help everyone remain focused on the specifics and will give a framework for this difficult discussion. A dispassionate review of the problem and the decision to terminate the professional relationship may help keep everyone’s emotions in check and prevent a blowout that disrupts the entire workplace. If you know fireworks are inevitable it may be prudent to schedule this meeting late in the workday or at a time when fewer staff are around.
The HR representative can provide appropriate separation paperwork and specify details about the last day of work, when the employee will receive their final paycheck, and provide a summary of eligibility for employment assistance, severance pay, and unemployment and COBRA benefits. Make sure all exit forms and information are up-to-date and in compliance with the law.
Offer a Dignified Exit
Although firing someone is not easy, most of us on the receiving end can accept the news and probably expected it at some point anyway. If you feel it is appropriate convey your gratitude to the employee for their past service and allow them an opportunity to say goodbye as well. Treat everyone the same way you would want to be treated in similar circumstances.
If possible allow your former employee the dignity of slipping away quietly. If have concerns that will not work you may want to ask security to escort the employee while they clear their desk and leave the building for the last time.