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It’s a new year, and the bad news is that if you are going to get fired, laid off or terminated, January is likely the month it’s going to happen.
No one wants to fire employees during the holiday, so most companies wait until the new year to do the dirty deed. In all my years of HR, January is the month when terminations, layoffs, and firings happen most often. If you are a manager who has to do the firing, terminating an employee’s job is among the hardest conversations and work situations you must face. So let’s talk about ways to make the termination process less uncomfortable for both the manager and employee being terminated.
How you handle a termination can determine how painful the event can be. A manager sets the tone for the termination before it begins. Here are ways to make the best of a bad work situation—or at least less unpleasant—when you have to fire an employee.
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If the situation is due to behavior or performance, be sure to:
- Have your reasons at hand. In most cases you need a trail of progressive corrective action. This means documentation of write ups and conversations with the employee. You’ll want to make sure to have the materials available if a question arises during the termination meeting. You might also have to run the termination by HR. They’ll ask for dates, types of warnings or written documents. I’m just prepping you for the inevitable.
- It’s okay to suspend an employee. Termination isn’t always the first option when dealing with a termination situation. If you are not 100 percent certain, suspend the employee and remove them from the situation until you can speak to legal or your human resources department. Better safe than sorry.
A job termination should be the last step in the process. That being said, you should have documentation that clearly outlines performance reviews, attempts to provide training or resources, and other times when the employee lacked in progress. Not a year goes by without having a manager try to fire an employee for performance just a week after giving them an “Oustanding” review. Your documentation, dates, and information makes it is clear to me and the employee what steps led to the termination. This step while annoying limits your chance for error and saves the company potentially millions in legal fees.
It’s your job as a manager to support, communicate and work with your employees. It’s also your job to get your job done by meeting quotas as well as individual and personal goals. This means jumping through hoops and working through the corrective action channels. As an HR professional, my job is to make sure the manager has documented and trained the employee appropriately while removing the employer from the potentials of lawsuits, grievances, and other liabilities. Do your job as a manager so, I can better do mine.
- Know what you will say ahead of time. Chances are, the employee knows that he or she is facing termination. A simple, “I’m sorry, but we are going to have to let you go,” is the simplest and best way to approach the termination. I like to follow up with the straight forward approach, “We’ve talked to you on <insert dates and offenses here>. Your performance hasn’t improved. Today is your last day with Company X.” Just stay professional and to the point, because no platitudes you offer will interest the person being fired anyway.
- Don’t argue about it. This is a professional conversation. As the manager, keeping cool is your only course of action unless you want to be on the receiving end of the termination meeting. The employee being fired may want to argue, but don’t get sucked in. Be certain about the decision and have your documentation ready.
- Have someone else in the room as a witness. If the cause for termination or the employee is especially tricky, having a witness can keep an employee from coming back and accusing you of something you didn’t do.
If you have to let go of employees due to a layoff situation, then:
- Act as quickly as possible. Don’t let employees worry or speculate. Rumors about layoffs can ruin morale, so if you know a layoff is coming, set up individual meetings as soon as possible.
- Be sure you know the law. If an employee feels wronged, lawsuits are sure to follow. Be well-versed in employment law and do things by the numbers. Employment laws in states differ especially when it comes to things like immediate pay out and benefits.
- Be prepared to answer their questions. Being laid off can be traumatic, and your employees deserve to have as much information available to them as possible about severance packages, why the lay offs are happening and why they were chosen. Be prepared to answer those questions or provide information for them in a layoff or termination packet.
- Provide support where you can. Being laid off means a severe setback in a person’s career and life. As a manager, you can help in these trying times. Help with the transition by offering to references, write a recommendation letter or make contact with an employment agency.
- Treat people with dignity. Being terminated or laid off is one of the hardest things a person has to face. It’s jolting and often times demoralizing. Be respectful and understand that people are going to be upset when they are laid off. Never lose your temper, even if they do. On the flip side, don’t escort out employees like they are criminals. Be compassionate to what they are going through.
- Consider social media. In the olden days before mobile phones and social media, you could deliver the bad news over the course of days to different managers at various facilities. We no longer have that luxury. Factor in technology when determining your layoff or termination plan. Consider setting up a phone call instead of talking to the employee in person or hold a group meeting if the layoffs are effecting a large group of people. Nothing is worse than finding out about your downsizing on the internet or via text.
These tips will help you make the best of a terrible situation. Just remember to be honest, be clear and be respectful. One of these days, it may happen to you too.
Share your stories!
Have you been fired or laid off? What was your experience like? Don’t be afraid to share, we are all let go, fired, or laid off at one point in our life.