How to Manage Employee Termination With Dignity
The only thing worse than getting fired might be doing the actual firing. Especially in small businesses or close-knit work environments, firing an employee, whether for practical reasons or performance, can feel like firing a friend or family member. Depending on what other employees think about the person you hire, you can even end up looking like the heartless villain if you don’t handle the situation correctly. The way you manage employee termination is also important because you can never tell what effects the termination will have on the rest of your business. Like waiting in line at the DMV, getting cavities removed and doing your taxes, firing people is one of those unpleasant things that you have to encounter in life. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to make this difficult situation a little less painful.
Don’t Rush into a Firing
Just like ripping off a bandage, your first instinct might be to get the firing done as fast as possible to reduce the time spent agonizing it and cut down on employee gossip and rumors. It’s understandable to want to minimize drama, but taking this approach to firing can lead to regret. For example, if you need to fire someone to cut costs, think about other options that don’t involve firing. Perhaps someone else is already planning to retire. Maybe there’s a way to save money in another area. If you plan to fire someone because of their performance, consider whether their behavior is unacceptable or whether they simple need some mentoring. Maybe reassignment is a better choice than firing. To successfully manage employee termination, it’s almost never a good idea to rush into the decision to let an employee go.
Preserve the Relationship When Possible
If you want to reduce bad feelings between yourself and the terminated employee, it’s best to try to maintain the relationship if at all possible. You never know when you will come in contact with this person again. The way you manage employee termination speaks volumes about your character and the company as a whole. The best thing you can do in this situation is to have the employee you fire walk away feeling as little pain as possible. This reduces the chances that they will hold a grudge against you and bad-mouth the company to other potential employee and business partners. Be honest when you fire someone and do your best to explain the situation clearly. Express sympathy but don’t be overly swayed by emotions. Also, be truthful if you tell the employee that you plan to hire them back when the situation is different. Promising things you can’t deliver may be the most damaging thing you can do to a relationship.
Discipline the Employee and Document Conduct
Another smart thing to do when considering a termination is to make sure you adhere to a strict, defined process for disciplining the employee and documenting any poor performance and the corrective actions that followed. In addition to showing the employee that you are giving them a chance to redeem themselves, this practice can save you from possible future legal trouble. Also, this aspect of how you manage employee termination can help you look like a reasonable employer if you fire someone only after you’ve given them plenty of opportunities to turn their behavior around. Lastly, a defined process reduces employee surprise when they find out that they are being fired. The last thing you want is for an employee to slander your company because they felt blindsided by termination.
Be Prepared to Pick Up Slack
No matter what your personal opinion is about an employee you are thinking about firing, their job duties may include things that are pivotal to the operation of the company. Have a plan for how you will handle the employee’s duties once they are gone. This might mean dividing responsibilities between other employees, outsourcing duties or hiring someone new. If the employee is the gatekeeper to any important company accounts or tools, make sure to get the passwords before the individual leaves the company. Nothing is more unprofessional than having to call or email a former employee to get the credentials for your Twitter account.
Firing is a necessary experience that many business people will have to encounter during their career. Rather than avoid this responsibility, it’s better to learn how to manage employee termination well and with dignity. Doing so reduces the damage to your company and preserves your image. Learn more about managing employees with Mighty Recruiter’s many helpful resources.