We need to start this article by saying that in over 35 years of working with employers we have never met a supervisor that actually liked or enjoyed terminating employees. An involuntary termination of employment is a double failure since it shows that the employee could not meet the needs and expectations of the employer and it also demonstrates that the employer may not have done what was needed in the hiring process and in managing the person once hired.
The Tips in this article are practical tips, and apply only after the decision has been fully made to fire an employee. This is not about the process leading up to the firing, or the aftermath. It is about the actual “termination” itself.
There are a few key attitudes and warnings to keep in mind when dealing with firing or terminating an employee.
First, it is important to remember that the eyes of other employees, as well as senior management will be on you. Your actions will be noted and judged whether you like it or not, and your actions in this situation can have some long-term consequences about how others perceive you, as well as other more practical consequences like litigation.
The reason for this is rather simple. Terminating an employee is likely the most stressful and definitive act possible in the workplace. For some people being terminated can be as stressful as a death in the family and divorce. It is stressful for you, for the employee, and for those around you. People will be watching how you handle this situation because they will most likely be thinking “Is that how I would want to be treated if I were being fired?”
Those higher in your organization will note how you handled the stress, how your “people skills” were, how effective you were, and how you got this tough job done. It is a test of your capability in a very difficult and challenging area, and how you handle a termination will say a lot about you.
Other people in the organization will note your actions and weigh them against how they would feel if you were firing them. This is one of the more memorable events that will happen for most employees, so it will likely stick in their memory.
This is why these tips can be so important.
Doing the job right can help you out and get you through a tough assignment, doing it wrong can have a lasting effect in many different areas.
Second, it can be helpful to assume that everyone coming to work for you will someday have to be terminated. If you have this attitude, one of being prepared “in case” you have to terminate someone at any time, you’ll most likely take the time to have a plan in place for terminating employees.
No matter what you think of any given situation with an employee, there is always a chance that you may have to terminate them. It’s not pretty, but it’s a fact. Having that in mind can make it much easier if it becomes necessary. It may be like many other things where preparedness makes the difference. For example, if you are ready and have a plan for what you would do in case of a fire at work you can relax and know you are prepared, and if a fire actually does happen then you are more likely to execute what you need to do with less error and more efficiency. This doesn’t mean you “want” a fire, or are “expecting” one necessarily, but that you are always prepared in case one should break out.
Realizing that you may be called upon to fire any employee can provide you with a helpful frame of mind in being prepared for that eventuality if and when it should arrive.
And third, most employees report they had at least some inkling their job was in jeopardy when they got fired. Despite this, the act of actually getting released often leaves them feeling humiliated, anxiety-ridden and immediately powerless. Whether they saw it coming or not, the three main concerns first in the mind of someone you are firing often tend to be related to the following areas:
- How do I leave the job site with some semblance of self-respect, and with the information and materials I may need to help me in my job search?
- What will I tell my significant other/family/friends etc.?
- How will I afford to stay afloat now that I’m unemployed?
Now that the stage is set, lets move onto some tips for terminating an employee