Managers in virtually every industry agree: having to fire an employee is one of the hardest parts of the job. It’s difficult knowing you’ll have such a catastrophic effect on someone’s life, even if the employee is being let go for zero-tolerance reasons.
While there’s no way to make it a pleasant experience, following a strict set of guidelines will help to turn it from something that seems like a personal attack to an unpleasant, but inevitable, part of the business day.
Document Your Reasons
Even in states with at-will employment laws, which allow managers to fire people for virtually any reason, it still makes good business sense to keep a written record of your reasons for letting any employee go. In case they decide to sue your company, you’ll have the proof that you acted legally, which can save you a lot of money in settlements and court costs.
If you don’t already have a policy of regular performance reviews, start one now. Do reviews at least twice a year, and produce a written report at each meeting for the employee and you to sign. Every time you have to correct an employee’s behavior or job performance, create another document recording the disciplinary actions, and get it signed. When you have to let the employee go, you’ll have ample documentation, proving your reasons for the action.
Always Have a Witness
When you’ve decided to fire an employee, set up the meeting in a businesslike manner. Have another person in the room to act as a witness, preferably a team leader or other member of the management team, if possible.
This person will act for insurance purposes, in case the employee wants to make a case for illegal termination. Your witness can provide proof that you acted in a legal manner. Plus, let’s face it: people get angry when they lose their job. In case anyone thinks about getting violent as a reaction to their firing, having two of you in the office instead of one might just calm things down.
Don’t Drag It Out
State your business as soon as the employee walks into the room and shuts the door. Don’t waste time asking about his family or talking about your favorite team’s latest win. There’s no good way to ease into it. Simply state your purpose, saying something like, “Bill, I’ve called you in here because you’ve repeatedly broken the rules about being at the job site on time.”
Don’t let the employee turn it into a discussion. You’ve already had multiple discussions on the subject, during which he’s had ample time to state his case. This meeting is simply meant to give him the results of his actions. Just come out and say it, telling him that because of his actions you’re going to have to let him go.
Timing is Everything
Firing a team member affects everyone on the job site, not just the worker who’s being let go. If you’re firing someone because of a zero-tolerance offense, you have to get rid of them immediately, but otherwise, it’s best if you plan their termination for the end of the day. You’ll avoid any possibility of the fired worker trying to cause trouble with the rest of the crew.
They’ll come in the next day with the crew member already gone, giving you the opportunity to give a short explanation about why it had to happen. This short speech is always a good idea because it cuts out employee’s fears of being fired next, as well as rumors that may start as to the reasons the worker was let go. Let them know that he fired himself because of his actions, then move on to the rest of the day’s business.