As any manager or supervisor knows, there are times when the needs of the company and the talents or aspirations of an employee are not in sync. Most people take no great pleasure in telling someone their services are no longer required. In like manner, few of us consider it a good thing when we are let go from what is most likely our only source of income. To keep the awkwardness of firing to a minimum, consider the following hints:
- Make sure you have documentation for all relevant employee-related incidents. Ideally, before an employee is fired, there has been a consistent effort to salvage the situation with verbal and written warnings, remedial training, and perhaps suspensions. If that is not the case, rethink firing the employee until you have built up some foundational documents. Even if your company is located in an "at-will" state, the documentation would become vital in the event a disgruntled former employee chooses to file a wrongful termination suit.
- Prepare the time, place and circumstances for the firing in advance. A location, such as a conference room, will allow you and the employee to discuss the firing and the reasons behind the termination without the interested eyes and ears of other persons. In addition, it is always a good idea to have a third party present during the interview. This third individual should be someone who understands the gravity of the situation and who will hold the discussion and details of the termination to be confidential in nature.
- Do not attempt to soften the blow with general platitudes. Be specific about the reasons for the termination. As an example, "Joe, you have missed your weekly sales quota every week for the last three months. The phone logs show you did not make your minimum number of sales calls on any day within those three months. Your performance is not acceptable."
- Allow time for the employee to participate in the exchange, but maintain control of the meeting. Rehashing promises to improve performance will only waste valuable time. Acknowledge if your employee is hurt or angry, but do not allow the meeting to be governed by emotions. Remain calm and focused.
- End the meeting by laying out what matters are to be resolved next. Address the issues of final pay, settlement of outstanding expense reports, continuation of any health benefits and for how long and any other issues that need to be handled as part of the termination.
- Arrange for the employee to be assisted in clearing out personal effects from the workspace, and to be escorted from the property. This will allow the task to be completed quietly and more quickly than if left to the individual. It also will ensure that no company property is removed (by mistake or otherwise).
No one looks forward to firing an employee. While there is no way to make the occasion anything other than a somber one, it is possible to keep the situation in control and on a civil and professional level.