CoAdvantage- One of the most difficult and unpleasant tasks all employers must face: eventually ending the relationship with certain employees as the result of employee misconduct or underperformance. Truly, firing an employee is terrible, no matter the circumstances or people involved, and it’s a situation that can turn ugly in a flash. But with a little foresight and preparation, it’s possible to handle terminations, even difficult ones, with grace and aplomb. They’ll never be easy, but they can at least be professional. Here’s how to handle them.
A little advance planning will go a long way toward easing the whole firing process. Start by articulating a plan for what you’re going to say and how you’ll handle contingency situations. For example, what will you do if the employee starts crying, won’t answer questions or follow instructions, or becomes agitated or even threatening? Be prepared with a plan of action for how you will handle a variety of reactions. Above all else, two principles should reign:
1. Be firm. You’re here to inform the employee, not discuss, negotiate, or apologize.
2. Be humane. Think about how you would want to be treated in their situation.
Never conduct any form of separation alone; always involve a witness, ideally an HR or legal representative. It may sound cold to involve those people, but in the heat of the moment, it can be easy to inadvertently violate policy, procedure, and/or regulation. An HR or legal advisor/witness can make sure to keep the meeting compliant with company rules and legal requirements. Other termination best practices:
· Keep the meeting short, ideally no more than 15 minutes.
· Stick to facts. Let the employee ask questions; answer clearly and honestly but briefly.
· Do not force the employee to parade through co-workers afterward.
· Focus on work and performance, not personal issues.
· Don’t end with platitudes, apologies, or overwrought expressions of sympathy.
Don’t talk to anyone other than the employee and HR about details of the termination, but it’s a good idea to debrief with your own supervisor or colleagues. We aren’t robots and being the cause of someone’s very bad day can have an emotional impact on the person doing the firing. If nothing else, assess what happened, how you did, and if there are any lessons for the future. For more tips, read our article “Terminating employees with tact.”
CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about CoAdvantage’s ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.