Once you reach a supervisory position either in your own business or a corporation eventually you will need to fire someone. Terminations are never fun for anyone involved. Having to fire someone, even someone who richly deserves to be fired, is hardly the highlight of anyone's week.
If handled correctly, the damage of a termination can be controled. In fact, there may be a huge sense of relief in the workplace after a termination. You want to avoid legal problems, violance, making other employees uncomfortable and other potential adverse consiquences of a termination.
1. Exhaust the appropriate avenues to redress the problems with the employee. If there are behavioral issues this can include counciling with the employee, written notices, and other steps.
2. If the inappropriate behavior is not correctable or there is cause for immediate termination than act quickly. Delaying the unavoidable makes everyone uphappy and does nothing to solve the underlying problem.
3. Tell the right people before hand, and not the wrong ones. Be sure you discuss the termination with anyone that needs to participate or be part of the decision. Give specific instructions to anyone involved in preparing seperation papers and final paycheck, securing company property or escorting the fired person out, but not too far in advance. Ideally these instructions should be given moments before the firing so that there is no chance for the news of the firing to get to the employee about to be terminated before you can do the termination. There is no reason to tell co-workers before the termination because the information will leak to the target of t he firing.
4. Conventional wisdom says that ideally you should plan the firing for a Monday or Tuesday. If you fire someone on a Friday they must go home and spend the weekend unable to do much to get a new job. With the advent of Craigslist and other online job portials this has become less important because anyone can start sending resumes any time they want, however the idea of firing early in the week remains popular.
5. Consider firing first thing in the morning or just before lunch. This leaves plenty of time to prepare for the termination and plenty of time to deal with the fall out. End of day is tough because you might be delayed and miss your planned time, they might leave early, or any number of other issues can come up.
6. Much like drinking alone is not healthy, don't fire alone. Bringing another manager or co-worker to the termination provides protection to the business and yourself. You can never predict the reaction to a termination.
The fired employee might accuse you of saying things you never said or worse might sue and falsely allege improper actions. Having a witness helps to set the record straight.
Some people get violent or threatening when fired. Having two people at the termination helps prevent or control violant outbursts. While you may not guess that a particular person would go over the edge, being fired is stressful and can elicite unexpected reactions.
Having a second person in the room can give a supportive boost to the manager doing the termination. You know that you have help and a witness and that makes doing the unpleasent deed easier.
7. Provide a concise no nonsense termination letter at the firing. Written notice makes the firing more official and real to everyone. It removes the possibility that the fired person might later claim they were not really fired. Also in the stress of the moment you may forget some critical points so a carefully written letter helps make sure all the key points are covered. Pink paper is optional.
8. Do the firing outside the employee's normal work area. The manager's office, boardroom, or even outside the front door of the place of business (for a small retail store for example) are all preferable to firing the person in the physical space they have been working. Removing the person from their workspace to fire them avoids making a public display of the termination. It also facilitates other employees securing computers, cash registers and files the fired employee might be using.
9. While the firing is going on, or just before, physically secure all computers and other equipment the terminated employee had access to. Especially if they have a laptop you must be sure that the company property does not leave the building. It is best to take the computer and lock it up securely until the employee is long gone from the building.
A fired employee may try to destroy your business and steal your clients. Don't make it easier for them by giving them access to all their emails and company information.
10. Be calm and professional about the termination. There is no reason for yelling. If the termination is not "for cause" there is no reason to accuse the employee or debate the termination. At this point the decision is made and not reversable.
11. Ask for their keys, access cards, ID badges and similar items. Getting these items back after they have left the building is nearly impossible.
11. Escort the former employee from the workplace, onto the street. There is no reason for long goodbyes or talking to co-workers. That will just create opportunity for the ex-employee to cause more trouble and disrupt the business.
12. Change access codes to websites, buildings, and internal systems that the employee might try to access to cause damage.
13. Inform remaining staff of the departure quickly and without drama. A simple statement that the ex-employee has been released from employment and perhaps some comments about who will assume the former employee's responsibilities is all that is appropriate.
14. Inform customers or suppliers if appropriate. Most outsiders are only concerned with continuing the relationship they enjoy with the business. They will appreciate the heads up. Touching base with these outsiders may actually lead to increased business as a more senior person finds out any difficulties that might exist in the relationship.
15. Implement an action plan to pick up work in progress and ensure that the business can continue to function without the terminated employee.
Employment terminations are never going to be fun, but if you follow these 15 practice steps to minimize the damage of a termination your HR management challanges will be easier to handle and your business will be better for your efforts.