Having to fire someone from your team can be dreadful. Sometimes the reason for termination is clear, such as theft or other gross misconduct. Other times the situation is more delicate. Perhaps the employee is not a good fit or does not have the sense of urgency you are looking for. Perhaps you’ve had several meetings but you are not confident in the employee’s ability to sufficiently improve. Whatever the case, here is some helpful advice to make the termination process as smooth and respectful as possible.
Provide Opportunities to Improve: Unless you are facing a case of gross misconduct, it is fair to provide opportunities for your employee to improve. In each step of the disciplinary process, state exactly what needs to improve, by when and what the possible consequences are – including termination of employment. Ensure the performance or behavioral aspects that need improvement are measurable and achievable in the time frame provided. Also, document each step. Below is the basic disciplinary process used by many HR professionals:
Schedule the meeting early or late in the day: To avoid further embarrassment for your employee, schedule the release meeting just before or after regular working hours. This allows your employee to gather their belongings without being seen by teammates. It also gives you time to brief the rest of your team before rumors start circulating.
State the purpose of the meeting upfront: Don’t prolong the anxiety with awkward small talk. Start the meeting with a clear statement such as, “John, the purpose of this meeting is to inform you that you are being released from employment at ABC Company effective immediately.” Pause here for a few seconds before continuing with a sentence such as, “You can imagine this is not an easy decision. We’ve met several times now regarding your performance and I think we both know this isn’t going to work out.”
Don’t let the meeting turn into a discussion:
Briefly and clearly state the reasons the employee is being released, but do not get into a discussion about the validity of the points. You can say, “You are being released for repeated failure to meet the clear objectives laid out for your role. This position does not seem to be the best fit for you and I wish you the best in finding a better position. Now let’s go over your parting paperwork.” Employees may want to express frustration or provide feedback about their job, and it may be helpful to listen briefly. However, if the employee goes on for too long or becomes argumentative, stop the discussion and move it to a conclusion by saying, “John, the decision has been made and this conversation is not productive. I’m sorry things didn’t work out here and I wish you the best. Now let’s take care of your parting paperwork.”
Terminating someone’s employment is never an easy task, but using these steps will ensure the process is fair and respectful for everyone. Finally, keep in mind your state and federal laws and ensure you are using the same processes for all employees, including protected classes. If the loss of staff creates a gap in capabilities, you may consider outsourcing qualified short-term personnel.
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