Most HR Directors and managers rank letting an employee go as the worst part of their job. There is no mystery in why. But there are ways to make it a little less painful for both the supervisor and employee. Here are a few tips in "Firing 101".
Ideally, it should not be a surprise to the employee when the tough meeting takes place. The company should have issued warnings and had conversations with the employee along the way. In some instances, a Performance Improvement Plan would have been appropriate. However, at a certain point, it becomes apparent that the employee is not performing adequately. The healthy option is to let the employee go. Unless the employee has engaged in an egregious act, it should not come as a shock during the termination meeting.
Skilled HR professionals can often approach the meeting as a conversation. Here’s how that conversation may go:
HR: I noticed that you’ve been late a lot and it seems like you haven’t had your heart in your work. Have you been looking at other jobs?
Employee: Actually, yes. I’ve looked at some other jobs recently.
HR: What about these other jobs is appealing?
Employee: Well, I’ve been looking at working for a nonprofit, and I feel like it may be more fulfilling and rewarding. Something seems to be missing.
HR: I can tell that you are ready for a change. Would you like this to be your last day so that you are able to make that change?
Employee: Yes, I think that would be best.
Obviously, this is an extreme example; an actual conversation would be more nuanced. However, it gives you an idea of how you can talk to the person about what he is really looking for. When a change is needed, the employee may be ready to leave. The employee leaves on his own terms and neither party goes through the trauma of a firing. The employee can move on without worrying that he has been “fired,” and has left on his terms.
However, in many cases, the conversation will not go as smoothly as that. When the employee does not want to leave, it is time to cut ties. Make sure there is another person in the room. The other person should be a member of management with a smooth temper. There should not be any history of bad blood between the employee and the third person. The other person will act as a witness to keep the situation calm and to act as a witness should the employee claim the meeting went down differently. Set a time and hold your meeting in a private area. Think about whether security may be an issue and prepare accordingly. Prepare materials the employee can take with him with information and forms to extend health benefits, as well as other helpful information. Include the employee’s last paycheck. This keeps potential negative interaction in the future down to a minimum.
Keep it Simple.
State simply that the employee’s employment is terminated, effective immediately. Give a specific reason (performance, tardiness, etc.), but keep it simple. Obtain the company keys and property at the meeting, if possible. If you plan to offer a separation package, you can discuss those details and your expectations on each side. For instance, let the employee know that you expect them to sign a separation agreement in exchange for the compensation you have offered. Make sure you advise that he or she may discuss the agreement with a lawyer before they sign and you compensate him or her.
Firing an employee can be traumatic. These tips can help keep the drama to a minimum in many circumstances. The bottom line is to remain calm and keep the conversation on track so that the employee can leave with dignity.