Editors Note: Firing an employee is one of the hardest jobs for most managers and small business owners and may be as hard in some ways as it is on the employee being fired. Firing an employee not only means a potentially confrontational experience, it opens up potential legal trouble (if not done properly), and it can be emotionally hard to take away the income of one of your workers.
There are no "good" ways to fire an employee, but there are better and worse ones. Firing must be done from time to time when employees do not measure up. Christoph Puetz guides you through the proper way to fire someone, accomplishing what needs to be done for your business, and working hard to let the employee keep their dignity.
How to Fire an Employee
by: Christoph Puetz
One of the most difficult tasks you will face as a business owner will be firing employees. Employees who consistently break the rules, do not perform the functions of their job, or cause difficulties for your business can be a strain on the work environment, your cash flow, and even disrupt your business from thriving and performing as expected. This tutorial will give you steps and hints about firing employees or associates.
Document, Document, Document
The first step in preparing when letting go an employee is to make sure you have all the documentation you need. When you give verbal warnings, be sure to document them properly. Make a case for this specific situation by documenting everything you did before making the decision of releasing the employee. Anything that shows that you tried to solve things to the better.
Your business should have a well documented procedure for what it expects from employees and anything that is considered grounds for immediate dismissal. Be sure to use these as guidelines and consult with a lawyer experienced in HR questions if necessary.
Have a friend, family member, or business partner be there to assist in any paperwork and any issues that arrive from the employee. Not only does this representative help with anything you might forget, they also serve as a witness if any lawsuit arises. This will be difficult for either one of you but in the end it will be well worth the effort.
"I've been fired, but why?"
Explain to the employee the performance you have expected, the steps you have taken to help them meet that performance, and that he/she has not met them. Do not say more than you have to, just state why they are being dismissed and fill out any exit paperwork.
If you are upset, cool down before talking to them. If you have to fire somebody over the phone because he or she is in a different location advice the employee that you have somebody with you listening to the conversation. Make it very clear that you are in control and prepared.
Establish Exit Procedures
Make sure you backup any important files before firing the employee and take steps to lock them out of any computer system. Change all passwords but make sure the employee does not realize that before the actual moment of truth. It is also recommended that you fire someone on a Monday and not on a Friday.
Employees fired on Fridays have the whole weekend to stew, while those fired on Mondays usually are more upbeat because they have the week ahead of them. Be sure to explain when the last paycheck is coming, when benefits terminate, and any information regarding extending their health coverage or any other details (if this applies to your situation).Remember to keep the meeting short and to the point. Explain to the other team members that you fired the individual without going into too many details. They do not need to know all the details but you need to make sure that they understand that this was not a personal dispute between you and the employee fired. You want employees to be honest to when disagreeing on something and not scared to get fired.
When a new potential employer calls you for a reference, remember to just state the title and dates of employment. Specify that you are not able to provide any further information. Advice your remaining employees that your business policies specify that all calls for references have to go through HR (you?) or yourself. Document again how the complete process of firing went, what the employee had to say and what happened.
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