5 Tips for Firing Employees
Maybe you thought you found the perfect employee, and it turns out you were wrong. Maybe they really are a good part of your company, but business is less than great. Maybe they’ve been good for years, but just did something intolerable, and for that, you have to let them go.
It’s never easy.
You can minimize the awkwardness, heartbreak, and potential legal issues of firing employees if you follow these five steps:
1. Be 100% sure
No takebacks on this one—be totally positive that you are making the right decision and not an impulsive one. Lost productivity, time spent looking for and training a replacement, decreased workplace moral, and severance pay can all hurt your business, so never fire an employee if there are alternatives. You can theoretically re-hire someone if you deem it appropriate, but the fact that you made the decision to terminate them will always be on their mind, and yours. Your professional relationship will take a serious blow.
2. Be prepared for it
Document any shortcomings of the employee prior to making the decision to fire them, and give them ample warnings and chances to improve their performance. Whenever possible, have a paper trail showing how you have attempted to help them fulfill their duties and remain a part of your enterprise. Before informing them of your decision, have the paperwork already arranged so that the transition can be as painless as possible. Know when they will get their last paycheck and when their benefits will expire.
3. Plan out what you’re going to say in advance
Don’t go into this conversation unprepared. Be succinct and polite, but firm. If you have any doubts, see step #1. If you’re 100% sure, then you know the reasons that you’re letting the person go. If you gave them plenty of opportunities to improve and they failed to do so, then they should know the reason as well. Employers often feel uncomfortable in these conversations and ramble on. Don’t, doing so only removes more dignity from the process.
4. Don’t argue or make insincere platitudes
Most employees are quiet and despondent when losing a job. A few may get angry, and even argue with them. Tell them that you will discuss the situation with them for as long as they like, but that your decision is final. At the other end of a spectrum, if an employee breaks down in the process, don’t promise them that you will help “in any way you can” unless you mean it (if you’re laying them off due to economic reasons, you may be able to do a lot for them; if you’re firing them for cause than there’s nothing that you can do).
5. Be honest with the rest of your staff
If you have a small business that employs more than one person, your ex-employee’s coworkers will likely be whispering amongst themselves about what happened. Don’t allow rumors to spread. At the same time, you don’t need to be overly specific about the failings of the fire-ee, but if your employees know what went wrong their performance is likely to improve in ways that their compatriot’s failed to.
No one likes to be in this situation on either side of the table. With tact and the right tools, though, you can move past the ugly parts and have better luck with your staff in the future.