As a business leader, you will eventually be faced with the unfortunate task of firing an employee. While an involuntary termination sometimes comes about because of a business decision and not due to an employee’s actions, this post will focus on terminations due to unsatisfactory performance or poor conduct.
No matter how an employment relationship ends, we recommend that you follow the best practices advice in our post on letting an employee go, including consulting your HR services provider. Then, when it comes time to have that dreaded conversation, here are some sanity-saving tips for approaching your employee with the news, without losing your cool.
Have a plan of action
Before you call your employee into a meeting to let them go, have in your mind the agenda of what you absolutely need to accomplish and the order it has to happen. This should include:
Use the buddy system
It may make sense to have certain key people in your termination meeting, including the business owner, legal representative and/or an HR professional. You never want an unnecessary amount of people when you deal with a sensitive personnel issue. However, it is always advisable to have a carefully selected third colleague in the room who was not involved with the termination decision. This person should be charged with taking notes on the meeting.
Having this third-party corroboration (and their notes) can be vital when it comes to dealing with the unemployment office and in defending yourself and your business should a compliance or legal issue arise during—or as a result of—the meeting.
Remember that timing is everything
The timing of the termination discussion can make a big difference for you and the employee. You know your business and when most people are in common areas, on the phones, out with clients or wrapping up their day. If possible, avoid conducting a termination during a high-traffic time in the office. Stress levels can rise if an employee fears the judgment of others.
In addition, if you need to wait until the end of the day, ensure the timing of the meeting makes sense with the employee’s normal routine. Tipping off an employee that they are about to be terminated can lead to unintended negative consequences such as bad-mouthing the company in a broadcast email or theft of sensitive information.
Keep it short and to the point
It’s easier on everyone if you don’t beat around the bush when delivering the news. Invite your employee to take a seat and then immediately let them know you have made the decision to let them go. Pick your words carefully and keep the conversation on point. The duration of a termination meeting should be long enough to conduct the termination--no more and no less.
Treat them with dignity
You’ll feel better about the process if you offer the terminated employee kindness wherever you can. Some ways to do this include:
Don’t get personal
As hard as it is in a situation like this, put your personal feelings aside. Two good ways to keep your own emotions in check during this process are:
Letting an employee go is never easy but should you find yourself in this situation, a TriNet HR professional can help you reduce the pain and the risk.
This communication is for informational purposes only; it is not legal, tax or accounting advice; and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance.