Author: Kim Zastrow
When it comes to firing an employee it can be stressful for everyone involved. Just because it’s part of the job description for business owners and supervisors doesn’t mean they enjoy letting employees go. Despite how unpleasant of a task this may be, it is usually necessary, and frequently even beneficial, to the business to terminate a non-suitable employee. You may have hired someone with the highest hopes for their success. However the fact is that some hires will simply not adapt to the company culture, and when you realize this you must take the appropriate steps to do what’s critical for your team.
We’ve discussed in previous articles how to handle difficult situations in the workplace. The same basic principles can be applied when you have to terminate someone. It’s a serious decision that requires much forethought. As a leader, you would want to display tact and respect so as to allow the employee to keep his or her dignity. At the same time, remember to be straightforward about the matter. This is important because you want the employee to know that your decision is final; there is no negotiation in the matter. The majority of employees will not feel that they deserve to be fired, and because of this fact they may feel that their termination meeting is really a second chance for them to change your mind. By being upfront with them from the very beginning, your firmness will allow them to see your decision is final.
Additionally, by the time you have reached the point of terminating an employee you have no doubt taken the time to do performance reviews, issue verbal and written warnings, or recommend counseling. Therefore, there is no need to rehash your dissatisfaction with them or place blame. Before you go into the meeting, prepare the key points about what you want to say.
For example, an employer named Mark often chooses to say, “We’ve already discussed some of the underlying issues leading up to this meeting. We are terminating your employment because…”
He then simply states an honest, summarized reasoning for the termination. This lets the employee being fired know that the decision cannot be changed while keeping things professional and dignified. If you are nervous, preparing some brief notes for yourself will help you keep your balance. Also, having all the necessary documents prepared will further solidify the validity of your choice and leave no room for doubt that they can still negotiate for their job.
Maybe this isn’t the first time you’ve had to terminate someone, yet you’re still having trouble mustering up the courage. You’re not alone. Susan Heathfield, who has worked as a human resource director and company owner since 1987, wrote, “the average employer waits too long to fire a non-performing employee much of time.” Even if firing an employee takes much longer than what the circumstances merit, remind yourself that it is in the best interests of the company and your well-performing employees to terminate someone who is doing more than harm than good. The rest of the employees may be having to “pick up the slack” of an underperforming coworker. Or maybe the individual in question is a productive employee, but they are habitually late or take no responsibility for their actions; this is still harmful to the workplace environment.
Employees who have such negative qualities could be compared to weeds in a garden. Weeds often crowd out the flowers and make it harder for them to grow. A gardener wastes no time in getting rid of the weeds so as to have a successful garden. Although weeds may at first seem harmless, they can multiply if not quickly pulled. Sometimes you may have to “pull the weeds” or terminate the people who are negatively affecting your business. It may not always be easy to do, but you must take care of the issue when you notice it becoming an established problem. Well-performing employees may even appreciate that you corrected a situation and improved their job atmosphere.
Keep in mind that when you are terminating an employee, you don’t have to justify or defend the decision. You are the boss and a leader of a team and you have to do what will be in the best interests of everyone on that team. Heathfield also advises employers to “resist any temptation to distance yourself from the situation.” Maybe you’re on a board of directors, and although the termination wasn’t your decision, you still want to present a united front when termination an employee.
Overall, the termination process can be considered a chore, something no one wants to do and that gets put off far too long. Take note of the “weeds” in your company and root them out promptly in order to allow the performing employees to blossom and your business to succeed.
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