The best way to fire an employee

The best way to fire an employee

These tips won't make it any easier on the employee (or you) but they will make the process go as smoothly as it can.

March 22, 2012

Recently I wrote about things you should never say when you fire an employee. A few people emailed to say, in essence, "Great, but what should I say and do when I fire an employee?

Fair enough.

Here's how to make a bad situation better, or at least as "better" as it can possibly be, when you have to fire an employee for cause:

Be certain.

Seems obvious, right? Not always: The heat of the moment can cause you to make a snap decision that is neither correct nor fair.

Even if you have a zero-tolerance policy for certain behaviors, take a few minutes to make sure the employee's action truly falls within the parameters of that policy. When you're mad (or really disappointed) it's easy to think, "That's it... she has to go," and unintentionally forget about guidelines and precedents. While you can bring an employee back on after you make a mistake, no one will ever forget what happened.

Especially the employee.

Don’t be Hansel or Gretel.

Except where zero-tolerance policy violations are concerned, firing an employee should always be the last step in a relatively formal and structured process: Identify sub-par performance, provide additional training or resources, set targets and time lines for performance improvement, follow up when progress is lacking, and document each step in writing.

Documentation not only protects your business, it also helps ensure the employee was given every chance to succeed. You, and the employee, deserve more than a trail of bread crumbs.

If you don't have a paper trail, don't be tempted to go back and re-create one. Start now and follow the process. Remember, it's not the employee's fault if you haven't done your job.

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