Making the decision to terminate an employee is never an easy process. This decision not only has tremendous impact on the individual who is losing his or her job (salary, benefits, self-esteem) but also has consequences for the company (productivity, employee morale, customer relationships, potential legal action).
Here are some guidelines for making the decision to terminate:
- Never terminate in anger. People say and do things when they are angry that may create problems later. If necessary, put the employee on administrative leave and send him/her home. This will give you time to calm down before making a decision.
- Review the entire situation, company policies, performance reviews if relevant, how other similar situations have been handled, etc. There may be information that you were not aware of that should be considered before a decision is made.
- Are there any other factors that you need to consider before deciding to terminate? Does the employee have “protected characteristics” (race, religion, sex, age, military status, disability, pregnancy, harassment complaint, worker’s compensation claim, etc.)? If so, make sure that you can clearly document why the decision to terminate is not based on any of these protected characteristics.
Once you have made the decision to terminate:
- Prepare a script and stick to it. Be honest about the reason for termination – violation of company policy, failure to meet productivity goals, etc.
- Never argue with the employee about your decision. The reason for termination should not be a surprise if company policies, the disciplinary process and performance reviews are written well and communicated consistently.
- Once you have made the decision to terminate, don’t make the employee work all day before giving him/her the news. (Imagine having to interact with someone you know you are going to fire later in the day! I also recommend that you pay the employee for the entire day even if you terminate employment at 9 a.m.)
- Treat the employee with respect. No one likes to be fired, but former employees who have been treated disrespectfully are the ones who file complaints and create other problems. Maintain the employee’s dignity by arranging for a discreet exit from the workplace. If the employee has been placed on administrative leave, you can terminate employment with a phone call (but follow-up with a written document).
- Never allow the employee to return to his or her work station. You can gather the employee’s personal belongings and return them later. Don’t give the terminated employee an opportunity to talk to other employees or to sabotage equipment.
- Have someone terminate the employee’s building and computer access while you are meeting with the employee.
- Provide the employee with written information regarding final pay, accrued leave, benefit continuation, unemployment benefits, etc. The employee probably won’t remember what you tell him/her during the meeting; keep a copy in case you have to provide this information again later.
- If the employee makes any threats, take it seriously. Report threats to company/building security or local law enforcement.
- Notify other employees (and customers if necessary) that this person is no longer employed by the company but never reveal any confidential information about the employee or the reason for termination.
An HR professional can help you with all of your human resources needs, from hiring the right employees, running background checks, creating employee handbooks that include anti-harassment policies and procedures, managing employee performance, staying legally compliant, automating employee records, and anything else you need to create an environment where employees can provide the services that you need to run your business.