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How to Fire Someone

Everyone who owns a business, or who is a manager, needs to know how to fire someone.  “It is not a pleasant experience, nor one I personally enjoyed.”

.  Every person I fired desired to be let go, but the process hurt me as much as it pained them.

So first, realize that terminating a employee represents failure.  How?

  • You made a mistake somewhere in the hiring process.  I would say this is true in most cases.  Take a look at the job description.  Is it specific enough?  Does it cover all the duties and needed skills for the job?  Do you need to improve your interview skills?  Did you ask behavioral type questions to get examples of how they performed against the job description in earlier positions?  In other words, learn from the mistake and improve your hiring process.
  • Did you fail as a supervisor?  Too often, this is really the reason why you must terminate an employee.  Did you provide the necessary training?  Were your instructions vague and unspecific?  When the employee’s performance started failing, did you provide coaching to get them back on track?  Research has shown that when an employee begins to have attitude or performance issues, in 80% of the cases, poor supervision is the cause.
  • Did you use progressive discipline?  I know, in many states, you can fire someone without a discipline process.  That does not mean one should not be used.  I suggest establishing progressive discipline as a company policy.  Using this technique will turn some employees around, and when you must terminate the others, you will personally feel you did all you could.  So what are the steps in progressive discipline?
    • First, you give the employee a verbal warning.  You tell them what should have been done, what they did, and how you expect them to correct their performance.  Place a written note in their file that the employee has received a verbal warning.
    • Second, give the employee a written warning.  Give this warning in person.  Go through each section and make sure the employee understands the document.  Listen to their explanations and document them.  Put a copy of the written warning in their file along with notes that you took during your discussion.  A written warning needs the following parts:
      • Explain specifically what the employee should be doing.  Take this part directly from the job description.
      • Outline specifically how the employee is failing to meet these responsibilities.  Give examples from their on-the-job performance.  “You did not meet the display penetration goal.”  “You misrepresented the number and types of displays in your reports.” “You have products that are out-of-date on the shelf and in the back room.”
      • Tell the employee specifically how you want them to rectify the performance issues and by when.  The traditional time frame is thirty to sixty days.
      • Explain what the consequences will be if they do not bring their performance up to standards.
      • Finish the document by stating that you are willing to provide instruction, coaching or training if necessary to help the employee get back on track.
  • Third, terminate the employee.  The termination document should be a lot like the written warning.  Make sure there is a witness with you during the termination process if at all possible.  Have a procedure for gathering all equipment, documents and or job materials.  I would hold the last check until all equipment, documents, and other job tools are returned.  Have the employee fill out a final expense report if expense reports were part of their job.
  • Of course, if the employee has violated company policy in some way that can lead to immediate termination, let them go.  I suggest suspension first either unpaid or paid.  When you suspend someone, you go through the termination process, but there is a chance the employee could return after an investigation.  This type of termination would cover drug use on the job, violation of alcohol policies, driving a company truck while under the influence, fighting with or threatening another employee or supervisor, and of course theft of company property or cash.

Finally, do not fire someone over the phone or by e-mail or even mail.  It is a cowardly way to terminate an employee.  You hired this individual in most cases.  Even if you have to travel to where the employee is, do it as a professional.

Hopefully, facing the unpleasant and daunting task of employee termination will make you a better recruiter, interviewer, and supervisor.  Yes, some people do need to be let go, based on their actions.  Just make sure that you did everything you could to save that person’s job.

Posted in: Miscellaneous