All good and bad things must come to an end. Sometimes, that means telling an employee he or she will not be working for you anymore.
This is no easy task for an employer, but sometimes firing an employee is a necessary evil -- especially if the employee’s work has been compromising the success of the business.
When terminating an employee is necessary, it should be executed in the most upfront and professional way possible. Here’s how to pick off the bad apples without being sued for wrongful termination:
When letting someone go, you should have a record of verbal and written feedback that demonstrates use of a performance plan and a warning system.
Make sure your employee recognized these warnings via signature so as to have documented proof. When reviewing the employee’s record, you want to be certain you were not sending mixed signals. Make sure you have sat down with your employee to relay your unhappiness with their work. Try to give that person 30 days to turn things around before giving him or her the boot. Keep a memo detailing the conversation.
“This will not only demonstrate your due diligence but also help to lessen the surprise factor during the actual termination,” says Ayana Pilgrim-Brown, a career and life purpose coach and founder of Career Compass Inc., based in Philadelphia.
Want more firing best practices? Check these out:
Have a detailed plan.
This does not mean simply setting a termination date. You will need to work with an attorney to create a formal termination letter and get help with the exact wording you will use in case you receive a call for a job reference. After terminating the employee, it is best that he or she leave the office that day. Unless there is an emergency, you should not allow the former employee to linger in the office so as to avoid any possible theft. You should also have company passwords changed during or after the meeting. Be sure to collect office keys and any company credit cards as well. Avoid arguing and simply state that the termination is “for cause” and then explain details like how much severance pay and benefits he or she will receive (if any). Make sure to keep the meeting private and confidential. An HR professional or two should also attend the termination meeting as witnesses.
“This will help to alleviate some of your uneasiness about the process and make things clear for your employee,” says Pilgrim-Brown.
Giving an employee the pink slip can be an emotional experience. It is important that you act professionally and maintain your composure to set the tone of the discussion. Many HR professionals say firing an employee is better done earlier in the week versus on a Friday to avoid a weekend of vengeful stewing. On a more sensitive note, have a box of tissues ready on your desk. Try to do everything nicely. The meeting should conclude with a termination letter and the employee should have the chance to ask questions. Ending the conversation with a handshake and a "good luck" is the best way to avoid unsavory behavior.
“Be succinct and resolute,” says Pilgrim-Brown. “Remember, afford the opportunity for questions and treat the person with dignity during their exit.”
As terrible as it sounds, if you can manage to become good at firing people, then rarely will you deal with any backlash from angry former employees. This in turn means you avoid the risk of an expensive lawsuit.