“You’re fired” – Donald Trump may make it look easy, but trust me, firing an employee is one of the most painful aspects of owning your own business, and for many bosses, the process is fraught with sleepless nights and stomach churning anxieties. As mentioned by Amy Maingault, “A small business will be particularly vulnerable to the effects of a termination gone awry”- the damage may be financial, a loss of reputation or even an impact on morale. Firing can be such an unpleasant reality that even in the movie “Up in the Air”, George Clooney gets hired by corporate bosses who want to fire their employees, but do not have the courage to do so. This option, though sounds great, is unrealistic. Even if it is real, think about all the money spent on hiring a “firing expert” – so sometimes it is absolutely necessary to pull the trigger yourself and learn how to fire someone gracefully.
Here are the critical steps you need to follow to make the termination as seamless as possible for your business and to protect yourself from future liability.
Prepare, prepare, prepare….
“Groundwork prior to termination is extremely important to mitigate any adverse effect” – thus preparation is the key when firing someone, and careful planning can limit misunderstandings, anger and recrimination. This includes having all your documentation prepared up front, including a letter outlining the terms of the termination. Make a detailed mental note of all the circumstances that led to the termination decision – get over the guilt, think “ let me endure the pain now to enjoy the benefits later”.
Set up a place, date, and time….
While firing an employee over email or phone is always tempting, the most professional way to do so is always face-to-face. Set up a quite and confidential meeting place in advance – regarding the location, use your best judgment. You might suggest a conference room where you can easily walk out once you’re done; or if you think it might get ugly, you can hold it at a neutral location, such as a Starbucks, as people are much less likely to cause a scene in a public setting. There is a never a good time to tell people “you’re fired”, – but don’t wait till Friday evening to convey the decision. According to Pamela Holland, “Monday gives them an opportunity to regroup and start networking,” Lunch hour may be better for cutting ties as the office is relatively empty, which provides the fired employee an opportunity to clean out his/her desk in private. It is highly advised to consult the office calendar to avoid any embarrassing situation. Have you heard of the employee who got fired on the “Take Our Daughters To Work Day” and the security escorted both the man and his 8-year-old daughter out of the door?
Pull the trigger….
Though a lot of time is spent in planning and preparing, firing someone typically only takes a few minutes. Harsh it may sound, be specific while using the words “terminate” or “let you go”. Once an employer mentioned, “I need to move you out”, only to the effect that the employee walked out thinking of being transferred to another division. You can start by saying “this isn’t going to be easy to hear..”, but make sure to keep in simple and stick to the facts. Never allow emotion to get the best of you while defining the terms of the dismissal. Be professional, honest and direct; avoid a laundry list of employee’s personal faults. Limit explanations and discussion about the termination, and don’t apologize for taking this action. Make sure to tell them when their departure is effective.
The way you deliver the news can determine the employee’s reaction—as mentioned by a lawyer, – “How the decision is communicated—doing it respectfully and preserving the employee’s dignity—can make a difference.” In case of any anger or hostility, don’t get into any argument. You have the power to terminate, and the decision has already been take, just end the conversation by simply stating “I will not argue with you. “Close the conversation by giving the worker credit for the effort he/she has put forward. Depending on the situation, you may also want to show support by offering to be a reference. Stand up, wish the person well, and shake hands.
Let the rest of the team know….
Inform other workers about the termination right away. Keep in brief and don’t get into big discussions with fellow workers, avoid details of why he was fired. Bring your team together that week to discuss how to handle the departed employee’s workflow, and map out your plan to fill the vacancy.
Though an unpleasant reality and not a very rewarding experience, letting employees go is often a necessity of business. And no matter how many times you have do it, you will never get used to it. So, do everything in your power to handle the situation in the most professional manner.