You’re Fired! How to Terminate Someone and Still Be a Good Person

If you are an HR professional or a business owner, you have terminated your fair share of employees. I promised myself if it ever became an easy and carefree act, I needed to step away from being an HR professional. I guide clients to follow the golden rule, “treat others how you would want to be treated,” Whatever the actual reason for termination, the individual deserves to be treated with respect. Whether it’s a productivity issue, attendance problem, or if the employee sucker punched a co-worker.That being said, you must also be direct, clear, and definitive.

Here are a few things you can do to help the process go a little smoother,

1.     Have the right policies in place and be absolutely sure that everyone knows them

I can’t stress enough the importance of having an Employee Handbook that includes the code of conduct, employee expectations, and disciplinary process. It’s great to have policies but ensure that employees are trained on the standards of the company. The employee should sign off and indicate that they have read the handbook in it’s entirety. During the termination, refer back to the section in the Employee Handbook that the employee violated.

2.    Terminations should never be a surprise

The final meeting shouldn’t be a shock to the employee. Either you have coached the employee about the violation or the behavior is so egregious that a reasonable person would understand the consequences. Coach and corrective action would take place if something like performance issues are taking place and they just aren’t cutting it. Immediate termination would likely occur if the employee steals from the employer and corrective action is skipped over to move right to termination.

3.     Don’t delay the inevitable

There isn’t a perfect day to terminate someone. Some researchers say that Friday’s are the best day but it’s going to be hard on both parties despite the day. You shouldn’t delay because it gives the wrong message to the employee and possibly the other members of your team. In essence, you are condoning the behavior of the employee or negatively impacting your company. Yes, it should be done privately and away from other team members. When you are making a decision, think to yourself, “how would I want to be treated in this situation?”

Be sure that you document, document, document employee violations and behaviors. The documentation will assist in the termination process and ultimately support your decision. Terminating an employee is tough but turnover can produce a positive impact throughout your organization. I would suggest taking a partner, such as an HR professional that can make the process easier for everyone.