The Correct Way to Fire an Employee II

Having to fire an employee is a task every manager wishes they could avoid.  Sometimes no matter how often or how much you’ve spoken with the employee about their performance, they still do not believe they are able to be fired.  But when the time comes, the manager must be prepared to deliver the news and ‘wrap up’ any final business with the employee with dignity and tact.

Keep it Short

Terminated employees should never linger, even in their own termination meeting.  When delivering the news, keep the information short and sweet.  Avoid small talk or arguments.  Tell the employee they are being let go for “XYZ problem”, but do not drag out the issue with details or fine points.  By simply stating the facts and avoiding adding any emotions or feelings in the decision, it reduces the likeliness of the employee trying to object or become defensive.  Then move on to the next topics to cover, such as severance pay, additional benefits or wrapping up loose ends.

Have Employee Sign Release

Depending on your employee’s circumstance, many companies require some form of signed release in which the employee acknowledges they were not terminated for any reason regarding race, religion, gender, age, or other form of bias.  These releases are not created by the company, but are a legal document that can be drawn from a legal consultant.  The release should be brought to the exit interview or termination meeting, whichever event occurs just before the employee leaves permanently.  

In some cases, the manager may be able to offer the employee some sort of incentive to quickly sign a release without delay.  Some incentives include additional severance pay, a promise for positive reviews for future employers or even free consultation with the company lawyer.  Always consult with human resources to determine what is within the manager’s realm to offer the employee, instead of running the risk of overpromising a reward without results.

Transfer Terminated Employee’s Functions

One of the worst problems to occur after an employee has been terminated is to have a gap in productivity and workforce.  After the terminated employee has been removed from the team, the manager should gather employees together and give a short summary of changes that will occur and how they will go into effect.  Inform the employees that the terminated employee is no longer with the company, but do not give any details or specifics.  Instead, move forward with reassigning job duties and transferring the former employee’s responsibilities.  Taking care of this task right way helps reduce the creation of a ‘rumor mill’ and will help eliminate any shock or disbelief if the former employee attempts to contact any current employees with negative emails or phone calls.

Avoid Fighting Unemployment Claims with Employee

When an employee is fired, one of the first actions they take is to file an unemployment claim to recover lost wages and payments.  While this can be a time-consuming hassle for many companies, it is something that should not be handled lightly by the company.  When the former employee files a claim, some form of a hearing will need to take place and the manager of the employee will be consulted for questioning.  All of the material gained is recorded by court records, so the manager must be careful that anything they say is not construed as a form of discrimination or proof of wrongful termination.  In most cases, the employee is rewarded benefits regardless of what comes from the hearing, so it is better if the manager and company do not fight the unemployment claim with the employee, but simply do what is required for the courts and let the decision and effects afterward come from them – not you.

Case Study

Camilla just finished her termination meeting with one of her employees, Jeff.  During the meeting, Camilla quickly told Jeff that his performance on his recent project was far below standard, and he could not stay on with the company.  Before she dismissed him, she required him to sign a release of liability for the company, and in exchange she offered him an extra week of severance pay.  However, Jeff wanted to retrieve his personal property from his desk, so Camilla asked him to wait in her office while she got him an escort.  She quickly called IT to confirm that his system access had been deleted before allowing him back to his desk.  Once Camilla knew that Jeff had been deleted from the system, she offered him a security guard to personally escort him to retrieve his belongings.