There are not many people out there who would say they actually enjoy firing someone. Even if an employer feels justified in letting the person go, the actual process of termination is the ultimate example of dealing with conflict. There are several things you can do, however, to make the event run more smoothly.
Whether you’re terminating because of issues with the employee’s performance or preparing a severance package, make sure you’ve gone over the paperwork with a fine-toothed comb. There is nothing that could get you into more legal trouble – or make the termination more awkward – than not knowing the details of the termination.
Have your reasons documented with dates, times, witnesses (if applicable) and specific details if it’s with cause and ensure all of your calculations are correct if it’s a severance package. Check your local employment standards to ensure you are giving the employee the proper amount of notice.
Rehearse Possible Outcomes
Ask another manager or Human Resources representative to rehearse the termination with you. Let them give you feedback on your delivery and how key communication should be phrased. You need to be confident and unwavering when delivering the news; some employees will take advantage of hesitation or doubts to try to argue why you shouldn’t terminate them.
Pick the Right Time
A termination should be done quickly – the news should be given in a succinct way and once the shock of the situation is absorbed, try to discreetly get the employee out of the building with their dignity intact. The ideal scenario is one in which the employee leaves quietly and seeks out comfort or advice with someone unrelated to the workplace. To this end, never terminate on a Friday since access to professional counsel will be limited. Terminations should also be done at the start of a shift to avoid any hard feelings on the employee’s part; it’s an additional slap in the face if you make them work the whole day before firing them.
Pick the Right People
It seems to work best when only two people are involved in terminating an employee – ideally a male and female duo who play well off each other. The immediate manager should deliver the news and then allow the second company representative to “play the good cop.” This person should ask for the return of any company property, offer to assist in the packing up of any personal belongings, and accompany the person out of the building in as discreet a way as warranted in each situation.
Security should be notified of the termination beforehand so that they can be prepared for any fall-out but unless the firing is because of security reasons, they should not be in the room. Too many people – and too much of a “heavy” presence can escalate the defensive emotions the employee will already be feeling.
Keep It Short
Remember, during the firing is not the time to waver in your thoughts. A termination is a final decision and if you’ve done your preparation work ahead of time, nothing the employee says during the firing will change your mind. Don’t allow the employee to plead their case; instead reiterate that the decision has been made and it’s final – no further discussion will alter the outcome.
How to Fire: Sample Scenario
An effective way to terminate is to bring the employee into a private room (never do them in a public place), announce that “a difficult decision has been made today and effective immediately the employment contract with the employee has come to an end.” Explain that the other person sitting in with you (another manager or HR representative) will go over the accompanying letter. Once the letter has been read, your co-worker should ask for all company property to be returned by a specific date and then offer to go with the employee to assist them in gathering their personal belongings. (Make sure you have an unmarked envelope that can hold the employee’s copy of the termination letter.)
Usually if you mention that your goal is to keep the employee’s dignity intact at this difficult time they will appreciate the gesture and will choose to leave quietly. If your co-worker remains within hearing distance but gives the employee some space it seems to work best.
Finally, encourage the employee to seek the outside help they might need and to review the letter. Offer that if they have questions once they’ve had a chance to digest the news, they should contact a member of the Human Resources Department; have that contact name and number available for them, as well.
Generally speaking, the best way to get a termination to run smoothly is to remove as much emotion as possible. While the employee will understandably be running through a gamut of emotions, if you firmly, calmly direct the conversation you can reduce the amount and intensity of distress involved.