As a business owner, breaking the news of termination to an employee may be one of the hardest things you’ll have to do. It’s no easy feat to look someone in the eyes and inform them they are losing their source of income, but often it is a necessary evil. While it may not feel like it, firing a poor performer is ultimately in the best interest of your business, your staff’s morale and even the employee in question.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to let a member of your staff go, you may be wondering how to proceed compassionately while also avoiding potential lawsuits. Experts recommend the following tips for navigating the termination of an employee:
Don’t let the dread or guilt of having to let someone prevent you from doing what is necessary. While firing should be the last step in a fair, transparent, and well-documented disciplinary process with the employee in question, you should act swiftly once the decision is made.
HR is your friend
There should always be a second person present as a witness for the firing process; ideally, that person is your HR representative. Double-checking your plans with HR first can ensure that there are no extenuating circumstances that may look suspect in court later on.
Keep it brief
It’s essential to keep your conversation short and to-the-point when letting go of an employee. Go to a private area and lead with the bad news, followed by the reason for the termination in one concise sentence. It may be tempting to apologize if the employee is upset or lashes out; however, the personal responsibility lies solely on them.
As hard as firing may be for you, losing a job is hugely traumatic. Your employee is likely losing their livelihood and perhaps part of their identity. Be compassionate and walk with them to collect things from their desk and escort them out of the office. You may offer to provide a reference if you believe they will thrive elsewhere.
Firing an employee can be a trying experience for all those involved. Even if you do everything right, there are no guarantees the employee won’t pursue wrongful termination. However, you mustn’t drag your feet if an employee is creating more problems than they are solving. You owe it to your staff and your business to have personnel that will pull their weight.