Managers commonly dread terminating an employee. And frankly, we should feel a little dread when parting ways with an employee - it's what makes us human. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to ensure the conversation goes as smoothly as possible.
Due to uncertainty about the decision, legal concerns, and excuses by the employee, many managers don't let poor performers go when they should (or at all). And when they do take action, almost every termination conversation is stressful.
But keeping poor performers on the team is a disservice to other team members, clients, the organization, and even to the employee in question. Lower standards are infectious and can bring down the performance level of other team members, and poor performers often incite resentment. Taking action puts other low performers on notice, helps managers meet goals, and ensures customers get the value and care they deserve.
INVOLVE HUMAN RESOURCES
Having made the decision to let someone go, make sure your grounds for termination are in-line with company policy and that you're ready to inform the right people beforehand.
Human Resources will explain how to terminate the employee. HR helps you by reviewing all documentation, calculating final compensation and/or severance, and ensuring that all the needed paperwork is in-place prior to the employee's departure.
Don't have the termination conversation alone. Ideally include a colleague from HR or one of your peers as a witness during the termination.
SET UP A MEETING WITH THE EMPLOYEE
Once HR is in-the-loop, schedule a meeting with the employee. Having the meeting right away is ideal, but if their schedule simply doesn't allow, it should be fairly soon after the meeting invitation. Typically, a termination meeting should take place at the end of the workday. If asked what the meeting is about, use your discretion, but say that you prefer to flesh out the details during the meeting.
LEAD WITH THE BAD NEWS
The very first thing you should do is let the person know he or she is being let go. Offering too much context or lead-up before the termination can potentially cloud the purpose of the meeting.
REFERENCE PREVIOUS PERFORMANCE GOALS
The next step in the process depends on something you were (hopefully) doing in advance of this meeting: tracking their performance and supporting them every step of the way. When letting someone go, it's important that you politely allude to the warnings and guidance they were given at various points during their employment.
With enough coaching sessions, the termination meeting will have followed a 'final consequence' meeting, where you clearly spelled out the objectives to be accomplished, the time frame in which to accomplish them, and most importantly, the consequence if the objectives are not met -- i.e. the person will lose their job.
KEEP YOUR EXPLANATION SHORT, BUT SPECIFIC
When referencing the employee's past performance, there's a fine but important line between explaining why they've been terminated and simply making them feel worse. Keep your reason brief and clear.
You don't want to get into an argument or long discussion. The decision has been made and is non-negotiable. There's no need to further hurt the employee's feelings. The employee may vent and ask questions, but just listen and repeat your concise message.
LISTEN AND REPEAT YOUR DECISION, IF NECESSARY
Despite your best attempts at making a termination quick and painless, you might still receive lengthy responses of rebuttals from the employee. That's alright -- they should feel willing to express themselves. Listen to what your employee has to say and genuinely take heed in their feedback -- this is probably a conversation you'll have again in your career, and the employee's viewpoint is valuable.
PROVIDE CONTINUED HEALTHCARE PAPERWORK & DEFINE NEXT STEPS
Clearly define next steps with the terminated employee. The first is to clarify the effective date of termination; in many companies, this means immediately.
Rely on Human Resources to go over benefit information, final paycheck, and other employment information.
THANK THE EMPLOYEE FOR THEIR SERVICES
Your last step during a termination is to thank the person for the services. Don't apologize, but say you wish things had worked out differently and extend best wishes for the future.
It's not the people you fire who make your life miserable. It's the people you don't.
Dick Grote - Author of "Discipline Without Punishment"
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