If you have ever had to fire someone, you will know it is not easy. Nobody enjoys it and it is a horrible experience for both employer and employee. But as a manager, leader or business owner it is something that comes with the territory. You can be the best manager in the world and coach, mentor and engage your team as well as possible. Unfortunately, despite your best efforts sometimes an employee just does not have the aptitude or mindset to do the job to the required standard. But just because you need to let someone go, this does not mean you need to be a horrible person about it. There is a right and a wrong way to fire someone.
The decision should not be a surprise
If you want to know whether or not you are communicating effectively with your employees and being clear on expectations, look at how an employee responds when you let them go. If you are doing your job as a manager properly, there should be no doubt in the employee’s mind that their work is not up to standard. Being fired should be expected. There should be ongoing performance conversations throughout the year, and as a manager you should have been coaching and trying to help the person get the required results. So, if it gets to the point where you have to let the person go, they should be fully aware that it is coming.
If you are firing someone, there is no reason to treat them badly. By firing someone, you are causing them to lose their income and they are going to be worried about how to pay the bills. It is also a huge blow to someone’s ego and self esteem when they get let go. So, treat them with dignity. Do not fire them publicly, handle it discreetly behind closed doors. Be as compassionate as you can be when it comes to the terms of severance too. Maybe you can extend the terms of their notice to give them a little time to find a new job.
Make sure you are not breaking the law
This one seems kind of obvious, but make sure that as a manager you are terminating a person’s employment for a legal reason. In most countries firing someone because they have a medical condition, or are pregnant, or some other form of discrimination or even because they questioned a decision made by the company, are not grounds for dismissal. The employee will have an employment contract and in order to terminate, they must have breached the terms of the contract. Likewise, you cannot insert illegal terms in the contract, such as if the person gets sick, they can be fired. This would not be upheld in a legal tribunal.
Explain the decision to the team
Finally, it is important that you are transparent with the wider team as to why this decision has been made. If employees do not understand why a decision has been made, then they are going to feel uncertain. They will worry that the company is not doing well, or that they might be fired next. It is likely the fired employee will have colleagues they have become close to during their time with the company. So, some of your employees are going to know they were fired. Trust and authenticity are a vital component of employee engagement. Besides, if you have made the right decision and fired the employee for legitimate reasons, your other employees are likely to agree it was for the best.
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