When it comes to firing someone, there’s no easy way to approach it. And you’ve likely heard of the old adage, “Hire slowly, fire fast.” One bad employee in your organization can create an ineffective system as a whole. After all, the “whole” is only as good as the sum of its parts. Even employees who know that they’re not doing so well have a hard time wrapping their heads around the possibility that they could actually get fired.
As a manager or founder, sometimes you have to put your feelings aside to do what’s best for the company. Here are seven tips for firing someone the right way:
1. Give Them An Opportunity to Change.
Sometimes, all it takes is a short talk to help get the right employee on track. You never know what legitimate challenges (both personally and professionally) the employee is going through. Perhaps they’re taking care of a sick family member, or maybe they don’t understand how to use a certain platform at work because they were never given proper training. Start a candid conversation with them, and be sure to ask them what you can do to help make their job easier. This is also an important meeting to have because otherwise, you might be blindsiding an employee who was never given a proper warning.
2. Evaluate Your Relationship.
So, you’ve given them an opportunity to change. Now what? Now it’s time for you to evaluate your relationship as you consider whether to fire them. First, there are a few things to think about, such as how often you met with them about their performance. Think about the feedback you gave them, and whether it was enough during that time. This gives you an opportunity to think fairly about whether they received the proper forewarning and opportunity to change.
3. Be Direct and Short.
The hardest part is delivering the news. Unfortunately, there are no magic words you can say. Being as direct and short with this bit of news is beneficial for everyone, even though it may not feel that way at first. By being straightford and short, you leave no room for negotiation, and allow them to take a moment to absorb what you’ve said. Think about it: would you want to be fired after having small talk at the start of a meeting?
4. Have a Witness Present.
Firing someone always makes you vulnerable to certain liabilities. And more often than not, businesses never see a lawsuit coming after a firing. A witness helps mitigate the risks associated with such a employee wrongful termination lawsuit. If an employee feels as though you wrongly fired them, or treated them badly in the firing process, they can sue you, and even have a chance at winning. Often, this witness is a part of human resources, but if you don’t have anyone in human resources, bring in the employee’s supervisor, your superior, or a trusted employee.
5. Offer Consultation.
Believe it or not, it’s possible to compassionately fire people. It’s natural for people to cry during this meeting. Have tissue on hand to pass to them. End the conversation by letting them know that you’d you’re happy to support them in any way that you can as they transition out of the positions into a new one. If the work they did was fine and they just weren’t a right fit for your company, be sure to mention that you’re happy to provide them with a reference in the future.
6. Make Sure You’re In the Legal Right.
It’s not uncommon for businesses to fire people for reasons that could get them in trouble. For example, perhaps you want to fire someone for low performance reviews last year. And then later, you realize low performance correlated with chemotherapy sessions. Or, you see that an employee took too many days off/called out too many times, but find out that they were in the legal right to do so. Utilize absence management software to avoid these types of issues. And be sure you have a quality system in place for assessing performance, and conduct quarterly reviews with written notes on each meeting.
7. Communicate With Your Staff.
After an individual has been let go, you should communicate with relevant staff. For larger companies, sending out a departmental email would work, but for smaller businesses and startups, a company-wide email would be necessary. After all, people will notice the employee is no longer there. Avoid letting them know exact reasons why the employee was let go. A simple “it wasn’t the right fit” can help avoid too much office gossip, which can decrease company morale.