Terminating an Employee: When it’s Time to Say Goodbye

  • Be Clear
  • Be Fair
  • Be Legal
  • Be Judicious
  • Be Compassionate

Among the duties of management is the hiring and firing of employees. Often, to terminate an employee can be more traumatic for the manager than for the employee. Plus, in today’s litigious culture, there are ramifications for not terminating someone legally. Here are five best practices for firing an employee under your management.

Related Resource: 30 Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s in Human Resource Management

1. Be Clear

This practice refers back to a best practice of hiring: be clear about expectations. If an employer has been clear about job duties and expectations of skills and performance when the person was hired, then the employer can point to non-fulfillment of those issues as reason for termination. Additionally, if employers waffle and don’t make the connection between conditions of hiring and the termination, employees could interpret the manager’s words as only a warning.

2. Be Fair

In fact, employers should issue warnings, but they should not go on without recourse. It is a good idea to do performance reviews a couple of times a year. This can work to the employee’s advantage; there should be some incentive for continuing or increasing job performance. At the time of the review, however, employees who are not performing well can be advised of this. The employer should make recommendations about improving productivity or skills. An article in Forbes Magazine says that it should be a last resort to terminate an employee.

3. Be Legal

Before terminating an employee, the manager should consult with the HR department or even with the company lawyer to make certain that the termination is legal. If the employee signed a contract when he was hired that spelled out the conditions under which he could be dismissed, managers cannot fore the person unless he violated those conditions.
If no contract exists, the employment is said to be “at will,” and managers may fire the employee for other actions. It is important, however, to make certain that the termination cannot be interpreted as discrimination or a violation of the employee’s civil rights. Employees should not be fired for taking medically necessary leave, for instance.

4. Be Judicious

Employees should never be fired publicly If possible, the conference between the manager and the employee should occur after business hours. This avoids humiliating the employee who is being let go, but it also doesn’t create a situation for other employees in which they become uncertain about their own jobs. Managers then can control what is said about the termination and when it is said, preserving company morale.
Managers should always have a witness in the room with them and the employee being fired. If the employee is unstable, being proactive and having a police escort for the person when he leaves the building might be advisable. There may be no problem, but it is best to be prepared for what might happen.

5. Be Compassionate

Advise the person of any benefits they might have coming to them such as payout of corporate accounts. Be businesslike, but kind. If the employee has skills and/or qualities that might make him a good fit for another type of job, tell him about that and offer to give him a referral.

There are other practices that would help in what is undeniably a difficult situation. Letting someone go in a timely manner and not allowing the problem to go on is one. Being to-the-point and terse so as not to “prolong the agony” is another. Terminating an employee is never easy, but this list of “best practices” can make the process smoother and guard against possible litigation for an astute manager.