Community Futures Meridian

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Firing Right - Taking the Pain and Risk Out of Firing Someone

  • April 4, 2017
  • Written by Meridian Admin

It’s neither pleasant nor easy to fire someone, but if you run a business you will likely at some time or another have to carry out this unpleasant task.

There’s a whole bunch of stuff you can do to avoid having to fire someone in the first place including providing guidance, moving the person to a different department, re-training etc. but at some point letting the person go may be the only responsible action to take.

Let’s assume you’ve done all you can to support, encourage and enable an employee to reach their full potential and none of it has worked. Perhaps the person is simply inefficient, or displays inappropriate conduct, harasses other employees, or has even done something illegal. No matter, the time has come to terminate their employment with sensitivity and in a dignified manner – not to mention legally.

1. If you haven’t got a Human Resources Policy and Procedures manual which includes a set process for terminating employees, you need to get one. In the meantime, seek professional advice on employment legislation in your province, territory, or state and ensure you follow it to protect yourself from potential legal liability.

2. Don’t jump the gun – try other ways to solve the issue before resorting to termination. It could end up costing less!

3. Keep thorough written documentation on every interaction with the employee and all disciplinary or corrective action taken.

4. It’s better to terminate them early in the week; this allows the person to immediately look for a new job, rather than a Friday, where they will end up fretting about the situation all weekend. Avoid major holidays such as Christmas. The best time of day is the end of their workday, when there are fewer other employees around.

5. Where? Choose somewhere private where you will not be interrupted. If the plan is for the person to leave immediately, choose a location close to an exit. This will limit their exposure to other employees allowing them to leave quickly and quietly, to the benefit of both them and you.

6. Prepare for the meeting in advance (make notes beforehand). If you followed correct policy and procedures this will have been an extended formal process which is coming to its natural conclusion given the circumstances. However, you will still need to formally state the reason for termination. Explain the support you and the company have provided to avoid it coming to this and assure them the decision has not been reached lightly. Inform them the decision is final and that you are not in a position to negotiate. Explain how you will proceed with either giving them a reference, or not. Wish them well for the future, and if appropriate express your confidence in their future success.

7. The meeting – keep it simple, do not go over old ground. Focus on actions, behaviors, and performance rather than emotions. Keep it professional, be respectful, be clear and concise. Keep calm at all times and have a witness. Request the return of any company property. If the employee has access to company files, or privileged access via to computer to databases, or operating systems, ensure all passwords are reset. If they have keys to filing cabinets, or sensitive material make sure these are retrieved. Consider in advance how the person might react. Are they likely to cry, get angry, abusive, despondent? Aim for the meeting to take no longer than ten-minutes.

8. Provide them with a letter of termination and a summary of compensation owing them. Provide details of any health benefits, life insurance etc. and whether they will continue, and/or for how long.

9. If the person is to leave immediately, ensure you have a cheque ready for them and ensure it is accurate. The last thing you want is to prolong the final meeting with contention over what is due to them.

10. Once you fire someone, keep the details private – any disciplinary action must be kept between the employee and you, or their direct manager.

11. Although details should be kept private, you should meet as soon as possible with other affected employees and tell them the person no longer works for the company; this can prevent damaging rumours from circulating. Also provide them with help on how they might answer questions from other employees, or clients as to why the person is no longer employed.

12. Reassure other employees concerned about their job security. Inform them, if necessary, a formal process was followed and that although firing someone is an option, it is only used as a last resort.

The bottom-line is to be prepared in advance for the day you will have to fire someone. Know the law, do things by the book (hopefully your own policies and procedures manual) and don’t make it personal.

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