This is Part Two of two articles. To find out more, read Part One.
There is only one thing worse than firing an employee who is under-performing and that is not firing them. It doesn’t help if you find yourself liking the employee personally.
Holding onto an employee who is not performing is a mistake. It allows harmful behavior to continue and it sends signals to others they can get away with similar behavior. If you allow one person to work less than is expected of others, there will be deep resentment in the office. Being a good if not great leader demands that you take action — the quicker the better.
Employment lawyers cringe when they see no documentation of prior counseling after an employee has been terminated. If you have any doubts about the legality of what you are doing, talk to an employment lawyer first.
Prior planning is critical. Woe be the lawyer who fires an employee and then lets him or her help wrap up issues or transfer work. I have never seen this work. The chaos, drama and ineffective work hurts more than it helps. Have a transition plan for the position that does not include the employee.
When should you fire?
The big question is when should you fire an employee? Never ever terminate someone on Friday. You give the perception of trying to wring out the last bit of work from them. It also gives the employee a chance to vent over the weekend through social media. Monday mornings are the best day for firings. The remaining office workers can have the rest of the day and the week to regroup and adjust to the news.
In today’s world it is essential to have a witness. If you are a sole proprietor letting go your only employee, find someone else who can answer the phones and also overhear the conference. Angry people do angry things and build misperceptions that are best left to be witnessed.
Before terminating someone, you should create a folder for the employee that contains all information on retirement, health, vacation, sick leave and pay due. Ask your health and retirement vendors to create the information for you along with necessary forms. Add the accounting for the vacation and sick leave due. Create a statement of severance pay, how much and when to expect it. It should also contain a statement of policy for the firm on references. Be sure it contains a statement of policy with respect to client confidentiality and firm matters. Expecting someone to want to know this while being fired or even sign for it is unrealistic. Explain what is in the folder and stop.
If there is no emotional response from the employee then tell them what is next. Forcing someone to go back and tell everyone they have been fired is cruel. It creates drama. Tell them instead you are going to let them leave now.
What should you do if there is an angry or emotional response? Allow the employee a brief period of time then call a halt. Don’t justify or explain your actions. Tell them in your view they are so upset going on is not a good idea for both of you, and that you will talk with them after they calm down.
You must take them to their desk and allow them to get their personal belongings. Do not allow them to access the computer or the files. Walk with them to the door, provide a good hand shake, wish them the best and allow them to leave.
What do you say back in the office after the termination? You cannot discuss the reason for the employee leaving. Call your firm together immediately and tell them the employee will no longer be with be with the firm. Encourage them to maintain any outside friendship they may have. Remind them they cannot discuss firm matters nor give firm work recommendations. Then let them get back to work. Always tell them if they have any questions or concerns, to bring them to you not their office colleagues.
There is nothing easy about firing someone. However, doing the most difficult things for the right reasons is leadership at its finest.
Copyright 2014 Cheryl J. Leone. Reprint rights retained by Catalyst Group, Inc.
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