Think back to when you started your business. You were excited and wanted to share the love so you went out and hired a few people, maybe even family members and friends. Unfortunately some turned out to be less-than-stellar employees. How do you get rid of them?
This can be difficult. On one hand, you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but on the other, you know that keeping them may mean a decrease in employee morale and maybe even a loss of customers.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with clients who tell me they knew on day one that the employee wouldn’t work out and it is five years later,” says Roberta Chinsky Matuson, president of Human Resource Solutions in Northampton, MA. “Business owners just don’t want to have that conversation.”
Here’s what to do:
Go back to your employee manual and document all of the violations committed by the employee, including date and time.
“If it is a violation of company policy or even a performance problem, make sure to tell them each time a violation is committed,” says Daren Fristoe, president of The Fristoe Group in Kansas City, MO. “After a certain number of violations, explain that you have to let them go. Essentially, it will be like the person fired themselves because they knew what was coming.”
Constant feedback is essential, according to Chinsky Matuson. “When it is a total surprise, it isn’t fair,” she says. “Make sure to have honest conversations along the way.”
After termination, make sure to continue documentation, Fristoe says. Then keep that information on file just in case something comes up later.
Be blunt and brief
Before talking to your employee, sit down and gather your thoughts. Then just do it. “Although it is hard, you have to be blunt and honest,” Fristoe says. “Keep the conversation brief -- less than seven minutes. If you stay within that timeframe, the conversation will probably stay on task. The longer you talk, the more emotional it can get.”
Fristoe advises small business owners to make a checklist before the firing session.
“Talk about your reasons, final paychecks, 401(k), COBRA, and why the termination is immediate,” he suggests. “Collect keys and credit cards and walk them out the door.”
Stick to your plan, Chinsky Matuson says.
“Don’t go over everything they’ve ever done wrong at the company; this isn’t the time for that,” she notes. “Just be succinct. Know what you are going to say and make it happen.”
Know the law
“In some states, you have to provide them with a packet of information for unemployment benefits,” says Chinsky Matuson. “You also may have to pay accrued vacation time or offer an extension on health benefits. Make sure you have your ducks in order and check with you accountant before firing anyone.”
Termination conversations don’t always have to go south. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that your employee was unhappy in their position and needed an out.
Be respectful in the way you fire someone and “you may be surprised how many times they will actually stand up and shake your hand and thank you,” Chinsky Matuson says.
Katie Morell is Chicago-based writer and frequent OPEN Forum contributor. She regularly contributes business, feature and travel articles to national and regional publications.
Image Credit: Wallace Lan