Firing an employee is right at the top of most managers’ “Hated Responsibilities” list. Whether the termination is a result of budget cutbacks or the employee’s repeat poor performance, telling someone that they’re out of a job – especially in a poor economy – is nerve wracking and heartbreaking. On top of the normal guilt that occurs, there’s also the realistic concern that the employee could flip out and become dangerous. There isn’t a trick of the trade that’s going to make firing someone easy, but by avoiding these common mistakes, you can at least make the process more bearable for both you and the employee.
1. Using Inappropriate Data
Managers sometimes use and refer to data when deciding to layoff an employee. However, this data’s intended use may have been solely to help the employee and the company develop over time. If data is meant to be used in one way, but is then also used to justify a termination, the employee may have a case against the employer due to misrepresentation. Before an employer makes the decision to fire an employee, and certainly before the situation is discussed with the employee, it’s important to look at all relevant data and form a clear, concise and reasonable reason for the termination.
If the numbers you’re looking at aren’t something the employee knows about, or has the ability to control, you could be making a bad decision for the company and the employee, both.
2. Basing Termination On One Bad Review
Instead of looking at the big picture, some employers immediately fire an employee after their first poor performance review. There are two downfalls to doing this: first, the employee can say that they were wrongfully terminated and second, the employer has now gotten rid of an otherwise beneficial employee, which means extra cost will be spent filling that position. It’s important for management to look over the employee’s history, not just their recent performance. On boarding new employees is expensive and difficult for company culture to handle. It’s important, therefore, to work out a plan that accounts for more than one strike, coupled with corrective measures, depending in the severity of the issues. Most employees want to do a good job, if given the chance to fix their mistakes.
3. Talking Too Much or Too Little
When firing an employee, knowing how much to say is a delicate balancing act. Some managers err on the side of not saying much at all – in the end, the news delivered is the same, right? Staying tight lipped shows a lack of empathy, though, which just makes the blow to the employee that much harder to handle. Saying too much isn’t good either. Once someone finds out that they’re being let go, their brain goes into survival mode, which makes it hard to understand and retain complicated information, like details about the company’s financial position. As a manager, it’s also good to stay away from, “This is so hard on me,” statements. Yes, it’s difficult to deliver the news, but it’s not nearly as difficult as it is to be on the receiving end.
4. Failing to Explain the Security Process
As if getting fired isn’t enough, most companies have a policy that the terminated employee has to be escorted out of the building by security. It’s humiliating enough to pack up your desk as your co-workers look on, but now you’ll be watched like a hawk by a security guard. While managers aren’t expected to lift this policy in order to protect the employee’s feelings, it should be explained that it’s common practice to have security present and that it’s in no way personal.
If you can’t explain the security process because you don’t have one, don’t wait until you’ve terminated an employee to figure out how to manage their keys, IDs, account logins and passwords.
5. Keeping Information Private From Other Staff Members
A certain amount of information regarding the terminated employee should become public knowledge within the company, or at least within the immediate department. If the decision isn’t addressed and explained, remaining employees may start to worry for their own job. This can seriously increase anxiety and decrease morale. While it’s rarely a good idea to discuss the specifics of an employee’s termination, you should always be open about the process and be sure employees know it’s for the good of everyone involved.
Remember, a termination is an opportunity for an improper fit to be remedied, and a better one to be found, for the employer and the employee alike.
Jeff Arnold is a professional blogger that provides news, information and advice for small business growth, human resources and leadership team development. He writes for Reach Human Capital, the best Memphis career transition service and talent management firm in Memphis TN.