Human Resources

How To Properly Terminate An Employee – Blog Series Pt.5

Hey Compliance Warriors!

Welcome to part five of our blog series! We’ll get into the meat of the actual discussion you’ll need to have with an employee about to be terminated. The language you should use, the attitude with which to approach it, and if need be, the evidence you should have to support your decision.

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Part Five: The Correct Way to Fire an Employee – Section I
   Believe it or not, there are right ways to fire an employee from a company.  Although firing an employee is never pleasant and can cause extreme anxiety, it is important to follow the correct steps to ensure fairness, dignity and some form of understanding between each party.

Use Positive Language
   When terminating an employee, it is important that the employee does not feel as though they are being attacked or belittled.  While your words should not be sugar-coated, there are ways to incorporate positive language into the conversation to ease the employee’s anxieties.  To start, always be clear of your intentions during the meeting and avoid any form of small talk that is not related to the topic.  Thank the employee for coming in.  Using the words ‘terminated’ or ‘let go’ can be one of the best phrases to use, since it doesn’t give any room for confusion.  Speak directly to the employee and avoid any personal attacks or accusations.  Do not use trite phrases such as “This is hard for me to do” or “I’m sorry to have to do this”.  The employee will not be convinced and may take offense to such generalizations.

Review Past Feedback
   One of the most common complaints from terminated employees is that they say they had no idea they would be fired or do not know the exact reason why.  If the manager has only delivered positive feedback and shining reviews, then the employee will undoubtedly be confused as to why they are being terminated.  Instead, review with the employee past instances where they’ve been called into the office, been written up or disciplined for certain behavior or mistakes.  This acts as a gentle reminder that there is a pattern in their behaviors and that the problem is not improving, which has led to their termination today.
On the opposite hand, it is recommended that while reviewing past feedback, don’t forget to acknowledge any positive feedback or contributions the employee has made to the company, although it may seem counterproductive, it is important to let the employee know that their contributions to the company are valued and that they did once serve as an important part of a team.

“Coaching is nothing more than eliminating mistakes
before you get fired.”
   -Lou Holtz

Concentrate on Specific Behavior
   When addressing termination with an employee, it is important to concentrate on the behavior that brought them to their termination.  Do not make small talk about various instances or mistakes the employee may have made if it does not pertain to this behavior.  The employee may try to steer the conversation away from their faulty behavior, so it is the manager’s job to keep the conversation on track.  Tell the employee that you have noticed XYZ behavior and have record of when it was first noticed and when you had the first discussion about it.  Include any past warnings or demerits that were recorded due to this behavior or actions.  Ensure there is final documentation of the behavior occurring again, the actions that show the employee has failed to improve this behavior, and why.  Before the meeting is over, the employee should be fully aware of what behaviors or actions they have committed that led them to their termination – instead of claiming they had no idea or was unaware of any certain problem.

Fire Early in the Week 
   Many managers do not consider what day of the week or time of day they would terminate an employee.  Some managers assume it does not matter when an employee is let go – but they would be wrong.  Typically, an employee should be terminated as quickly as possible after the decision has been made, so as to not allow the situation or employee linger in the company any longer than they have to.  Fire the employee early in the week, such as on Monday or Tuesday.  Firing an employee on a Friday only causes more frustration with the employee, since they are often angry to have worked all week only to be let go on Friday.  In worse cases, the employee may be terminated on Friday and then have the entire weekend to ‘stew’ on the problem and return back on Monday for a bigger fight, obtain some kind of revenge or to simply wreak some sort of havoc.

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Practical Illustration
   Paul called Kimberly into his office in order to terminate her from the company.  When she first came into the office, he told her right away that after reviewing her records and performance logs, she was not meeting the performance requirements set by the company, so he was letting her go.  Paul specified that her call volumes and outbound surveys were not improving as they had planned during her PIP meeting.  He explained that these two specific aspects of her job have been greatly affecting her performance scores.  Paul thanked Kimberly for her service at the company and for being a loyal employee, but told her it was time to terminate her position here.


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Lisa Smith is CEO of Andere Corporation and Chief Content Developer at HelpDeskSuites.com. Follow her on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn, listen to her Small Business Spoonfuls Podcast, and find more in her Compliance Warriors Facebook Group.

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