To Fire or Not to Fire, That Is the Question
(Part Two of a Two-Part Series)
Firing an employee is not a pleasant task and should be avoided if possible. But if you’ve tried to work through problems with a difficult employee to no avail, than you must terminate their employment in order to prevent any further drain on your energy and financial resources. Last week we discussed characteristics of problematic employees to help you determine whether an employee is exhibiting fire-worthy behavior. This week we’ll discuss ways to remedy that behavior and either turn them into more productive and pleasant workers or take the necessary steps to fire them.
First of all, it’s important to document your experience with problematic employees long before you choose to fire them. This should protect you should your employee, at some point, take legal action against you.
Practice Regular Reviews
It’s unfair to fire an employee for continuing to practice poor behavior if you’ve never told them it’s poor in the first place. Depending on need, you should practice regular reviews where you call employees in, individually, and talk to them about their performance. In doing so you must be brutally honest and share problematic behavior you’ve noticed and explain to them how it undermines your business’s success. Clarify that the responsibility to change their behavior and improve their performance rests with them. If he/she expresses interest in making changes, ask the employee in question to create an action plan that will help them better chart their way to success. Maintain regular contact with this employee to offer continued feedback and advice as they move forward.
Once you’ve talked with an employee they’ll either improve their behavior or they won’t. If you find the latter to be the case, you may opt for Counseling Out. CareerBuilder.com defines Counseling Out as “the process of providing enough regular, candid and honest feedback that an employee quits before being fired.” Here are the steps you should take in order to accomplish that:
- First, you establish a timeline, determining a date by which you hope to see the employee quit; CareerBuilder suggests one month. This timeline is not to be shared with the employee in question in case you choose to fire them before your deadline.
- Second, schedule a meeting with the employee where you present specific examples of poor performance. If they insist on defending themselves schedule a separate meeting for them to do so, but insist that this meeting is a time for you to share your concerns and explain that the employee’s poor behavior cannot continue. Run through an actual hardcopy of your list (your documentation should help in creating this) and then both you and your employee should sign the list as evidence that all these concerns have been thoroughly communicated. End your meeting by clearly stating, “Now would be a good time for you to look for another job.”
- Third, schedule weekly meetings to note the employee’s behavior. Ask how the job search is progressing and provide them with the necessary search tools and advice to find another job. Create meeting notes that you can both sign. And continue to document your observations.
- Fourth, hopefully your employee will quit before you reach the end of your timeline, but if that doesn’t happen it’s time for you to terminate this worker’s employment.
When you fire an employee you should do it in a face-to-face meeting. Never delegate this responsibility or perform it over the phone or via email. Regardless of how you approach it, chances are it will be an uncomfortable meeting; detail the performance evaluations you’ve completed and the employee’s lack of improvement. It may be a good idea to have another individual present in order to witness the event both for your legal protection and to provide support in case the employee gets out of control. Terminate employment quickly and make it clear when they are to leave (avoid being overly harsh-“pack up your office by noon” is a little much).Firing an employee may be one of the most difficult things you ever do. But if you’ve evaluated the situation and determined the employee’s behavior is not going to improve, you will be doing everyone a favor by letting him/her go. You never know, the employee may thank you later.References“Counseling Out.” careerbuilder.com.