Firing someone is never pleasant. But when you have a poor performer on your hands, you can’t afford to waste your time or money by keeping them around.
There are certainly right and wrong ways to go about letting someone go. Get it wrong, and you could cause unnecessary heartache for the both of you — or worse, end up in court.
We spoke to a few Human Resources professionals about some best practices for firing someone who is not working up to your standards.
A firing should always be the last step in a bigger review process.
Coy Renick, president of the Renick Group, describes the two key elements of this process: First, warn them that their performance is not meeting standards, that they are risking termination and how they should strive to change.
Then, if they fail to improve, you should let them go.
Dr. Carl Greenberg, President of Pragmatic HR, advises that you do this over the course of about four weeks so the employee has a real chance to correct and improve their performance.
If it comes time to terminate, you'll need to be able to present specific data to back up your decision.
You should accompany your original warnings with realistic goals that are actually measurable, says Greenberg -- such as 'increasing sales by at least x per cent.'
If they don't achieve those goals, they shouldn't be surprised when they are let go; no one can argue against hard numbers.
You should never do the firing in a public place. While it might sound nicer, doing something like taking a person out to lunch and firing them is not a good idea.
A neutral space with a door -- -- like a conference room -- is best. That way you can have the meeting privately, then leave when the conversation is over.
An article in Entrepreneur suggests that you 'have a witness present during the meeting in case the employee threatens retaliation.'
Both of the HR experts we spoke to second that suggestion. 'You never know how a person is going to react,' Renick cautions.
While you're having the conversation, you should also arrange for someone else to change any important company passwords that your former employee may have had access to, as well as cancel their access to any company programs or information.
You should, of course, be compassionate. Greenberg emphasises the importance of protecting the employee's dignity throughout the process.
'Most lawsuits related to firing arise from the company not treating their employee with dignity and empathy,' Renick adds.
However, that doesn't mean you should sugarcoat the issues involved. An article in USNews reports, 'Sometimes a manager will come up with a 'cover story' for the firing, thinking the real reason will hurt the employee's feelings. Sometimes a manager will use a cover story because he or she hasn't been direct enough with the employee about the problems earlier.'
You won't need to do so if you set tangible goals early in the process. Just stick to the raw facts about their performance and their failure to live up to specific standards.
Keep the meeting short and sweet, and make it absolutely clear that there is no room for discussion on the matter.
Renick advises saying something along the lines of, 'We've had conversations about your performance, and it's not working out. Your job is terminated.'
'Don't talk too much!' Greenberg adds. You should keep the conversation strictly on performance. Remind them that these are the consequences to not meeting expectations, and it's time to go.
If the employee refuses to accept what you're saying, keep emphasising that the decision has been made and it is irreversible.
After the conversation is over, you should brief them on any important information related to their termination, such as details of their insurance benefits, unemployment options, and final paycheck.
'This may be the last time you speak with that person,' Renick says. You want to make sure they have all the information they need to move on.
At this point, you should also discuss any severance package they might be eligible for. If your company offers career counseling for employees who are let go (which is a good idea, if you have the means), now is the time to give them those instructions.
There is not usually a good reason for the terminated employee to stick around after you've fired them.
'They're likely to be very upset,' Greenberg says. 'Let them leave right then, and have them come back at a later time to collect their things.'
Schedule a time before or after your office usually opens for them to return and gather their things with relative privacy (under your supervision, of course).
A firing can turn into a sticky situation if the employee decides they want to sue you over it. Here are several ways you can make protect yourself from legal action:
- If you're not doing it already, be sure to implement clauses in your employment contracts that give you ownership of company data, so you don't have to fight terminated employees for any important information they may have.
- Always record your 'warning conversations' so that you have hard evidence supporting your reasons for letting them go. Renick suggests drafting a document that summarizes each conversation and having the employee sign and date it.
- Again, have a witness present during the conversation who can account for your actions and prevent an angry employee from falsely accusing you of wrongful behaviour.
One consistent piece of advice we saw over and over was to never fire an employee on a Friday.
Why? 'You don't want them to go home and stew about it,' Renick says.
'Monday morning is best,' Greenberg suggests. 'You want to quickly transition the person from working for you to the process of looking for another job, which is usually done during the week.'
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