Things to Consider Before Firing That Employee

As a manager, you should expect to deal with a situation where you may have to fire an employee. Maybe they're not pulling their weight, or maybe they're just not up to the tasks at hand. Whatever the issue, there are many pitfalls and traps to avoid during the process. Otherwise, you may find yourself having to face an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal. Make sure you've got your bases covered by double-checking—and even triple-checking—the following.

Make sure the reason is legitimate.

This may sound obvious, but you have to make sure you have a legitimate reason for terminating someone. “There was something about him,” or “I just didn't think she was a team player,” really won't hold up at that tribunal. Dispense with all personal feeling and take a long, hard, objective look at the situation. Some legitimate reasons (though obviously not all) include:

  • Poor performance/productivity
  • Gross misconduct/unprofessional behavior

The key thing, however, is that you need solid, written evidence to back up your reasons for firing.

Have they been given a chance?

If you can show that a series of warnings were given and you informed them that you're closely monitoring their progress, and yet they still didn't comply or improve their performance, then you can safely (and legally) show them the door. In the case of gross misconduct such as sexual harassment, drug abuse, or theft, the course of action may seem obvious. However, it is a still a good idea to have these eventualities (broad strokes are usually fine) covered in a company orientation and signed contract. This can act as your 'warning.'

Have someone in the room.

If you have decided to fire the employee, then it is a very good idea to have someone – preferably two – people in the room with you. One person should take detailed notes so your version of events can be corroborated, should the unfortunate event of legal action ever take place. This will further help to show you have been even-handed and fair in your decision.

Keep dignity intact.

Firing an employee is very stressful, for both the person at the receiving end of the bad news, as well as the person giving it. Make sure the employee can retain some dignity from the situation. If computer access needs to be canceled, make sure this doesn't happen before an employee has had a chance to send a farewell email or clear personal documents. If someone needs to watch this due to commercial sensitivity, then do this under the auspices of protocol. Furthermore, try to avoid 'escorting' an employee out of the building unless there is a real risk something may be stolen or vandalized. This will prevent any excuse of aggravation on the part of the employer, as well as prevent any resentment on the part of the employee.  

Remember though, that these are helpful as general guidelines for diffusing any situation that may arise. It is important to keep in mind that specific legalities will vary from state to state and from country to country, so ensure that you or your HR department is fully up to date with all federal and local laws regarding employment.

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