From the onset, releasing an employee is never fun or easy. Emotions run high: firing an employee is uncomfortable and difficult for both the business owner and the employee. Nevertheless, it may be the best solution for your business to function properly. When learning how to fire an employee, keep in mind you should be aware of the legal issues and emotional considerations involved when dismissing a member of your staff. The following steps touch on both concerns related to this stressful but sometimes necessary event.
10 Tips on How to Fire an Employee the Right Way
- Reduce the Chances of Firing Employees: Before they join your team, require new employees to read the company’s handbooks. Many times you can avoid discharging a member of your team by spending time with them to go over your company’s employment policies. Make sure to include in your handbook a section on termination of employment. Employees should sign a document indicating they have read the handbook and understand its contents. Another way to cover termination policies is to include a section in the employment contract an employee signs on his/her first day of work.
- Take Disciplinary Action: The company handbook should detail the disciplinary actions you can take when employees underperform or commit other violations of employment. Record violations in writing, meet with the employee and have them sign the violation in your presence. Give them a copy and keep one in their personnel file. It’s better to be able to document violations should an employee choose to litigate or challenge your right as an employer to terminate their employment.
- Implement a 3-Strikes Policy: Never take your employee by surprise. While you’re not obligated by law to give a notice of termination, you’ll ease the process if you set a warning method in advance. As part of your handbook, make it clear that three violations will cost an employee their job. Once they sign the handbook, they’ve agreed to that policy. At violation #2, put the employee on notice that a third violation means they could lose their job.
- Make sure you’re firing for the right reasons: Don’t let your personal opinion blind you from the legitimate reasons to fire an employee. You have to be able to provide a written record of recurrent violations or low performance. Also, get a second opinion: you can interview reliable supervisors and co-workers to substantiate reasons to terminate an employee. Avoid interviewing other members of your team that have had known clashes with the employee because you want your review to be objective.
- Review Labor Laws: Most states give employees the right to terminate employment at any moment and for any reason. Even so, you should include in your company manual or in your contracts the terms of employment and the terms of potential termination. Also, remember you can’t fire someone on the basis of race, age, gender, disabilities or sexual orientation. Every employer should know their state’s labor laws or use an HR service for guidance.
- Fire an Employee Face-to-Face: Never call an employee at home or send an email to communicate it’s their last day. Be discrete when asking your employee to meet you. Choose a private and comfortable area to have a conversation. It’s also advisable to have another person such as an HR manager or another staff member with you when you let someone go.
- Be Brief and Concise: When learning how to fire an employee, a long discourse on what they did wrong is not the way to go. Be clear and concise. Explain the reason for the termination honestly. Use your written records as support: you can reference the three-violations agreement that the employee signed back in the day. If you think your emotions may cause you to ramble, write down bullet points to stay on track.
- Expect Emotional Responses: Someone may cry or become angry. In rare cases, having a police escort on call may be warranted when you anticipate someone may become violent. You can be empathetic without giving the employee false hope that they have another chance at employment with your firm.
- Be Positive: Not every termination has to do with poor performance. Sometimes employers experience a market downturn which adversely affects their situation leading to a reduction in staff to cut on expenses. If that’s the case, make your employee’s transition as easy as possible. You can provide good references when your employee is looking for a new job. If someone asks you for a reference, stress the good points of your former employee.
- Fulfill Your Employer Requirements: Communicate information about unemployment options and answer any question your employee may have about benefits, COBRA (which gives employees the ability to continue health insurance coverage after leaving their job), and about when they will receive their final paycheck. Some companies offer a severance package to deter employees from filing a claim. Complying with all the requirements will reduce the chances of having a lawsuit on the basis of wrongful termination.
Takeaways on How to Fire an Employee
This emotionally-charged event can leave both an employer and employee drained. So that both of you get through a termination unscathed, it’s important to be absolutely sure firing an employee is warranted. If firing is necessary, then it’s important to follow the above steps so you’re prepared. At the end of the day, your professionalism and honesty may motivate someone to do better next time. You can avoid the unpleasant situation altogether by learning how to keep your employees motivated and how to retain your good employees.
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