Unlike the dramatic firing seen on “The Apprentice” most managers find it one of the most difficult tasks that they have to perform. Many do everything to avoid it or keep procrastinating until it causes severe damage to their company.
There is a wrong and right way to go about this difficult managerial responsibility.
The right way involves objectivity that connects the decision to a due process, which is transparent and egalitarian. This serves to eliminate any personal biases that can be attributed to an emotional cause and renders the decision unjust to other employees.
It may cause them to fear that the ax may fall on them next without just cause. Team spirit and motivation is affected by impromptu acts that are often based on anger.
Fortunately, precautions can be taken to avoid unfairness in the termination process. Every manager must come to terms with the fact that it is sometimes necessary to remove the rotten apples so that they don’t affect the rest.
This can be done in a way that causes no guilt and attests to the fair treatment of all employees. The best way is to avoid some of the underlying causes that require termination:
Use a performance-based termination – This is achieved by a process that is based on progressive discipline (see this article entitled “Right Kind of Discipline – Progressive Discipline For Employees”. In summary, discipline is meted out systematically and progresses from verbal warnings to more stricter actions.
This should be seen as correcting unproductive behavior that affects the company and coworkers. All verbal warnings should always be recorded in the employees’ records for future reference and control over repetitive acts.
Good record keeping of poor behavior is the key to the application of the right kind of discipline.
Define performance expectations – The best way to accomplish this is to make them an intrinsic part of job descriptions and duties lists. Functional responsibilities and duties are laid out in writing and serve as the basis for regular employee evaluations and feedback.
These formal evaluations are the cornerstone for employee feedback and opportunity for corrections.
This is not a task to be neglected as too often happens in many small companies. They see the benefits at first but then drop the assessments claiming lack of time or other excuses. Neglect often leads to pressures building up and exploding in angry outbursts, and unnecessary firing.
Provide regular coaching – None productive behavior can often be attributed to a lack of consistent coaching on the part of supervisors. It is the obligation of managers to get the best they can from each employee by helping them to enhance their knowledge and skills in performing their jobs.
When not coached properly frustration sets in and unproductive behavior patterns deteriorate further.
In the long term, it is highly beneficial for supervisors to take the time to coach because it ultimately provides them with peace of mind and increases their own productivity. Every supervisor should allocate time for coaching and make it part of their schedule.
Through the coaching and fostering process, the need and associated costs of termination are avoided. After all, there are no guarantees that the replacement for a fired employee will be better if there is no culture of coaching in the company.
Set up a corrective action plan – Once the employee is cited for unproductive behavior this must be followed by a plan on how this behavior can be corrected over time. This cannot be left solely to the supervisor’s discretion.
It is essential to get the employee on board and have them take possession of the remedial process.
Participation in the corrective plan and a commitment to making it happen by the employee is a prerequisite to success. Any verbal agreements should be recorded and signed by the employee.
A follow-up meeting should be scheduled in a specific time frame to evaluate progress.
Check the legality – Termination should never be a shock to an employee when progressive discipline is properly applied. It should also not be a surprise for others in the organization who have witnessed the care and consideration provided before the final step is taken.
But before the decision is taken to terminate, it is good to review the matter with legal counsel to ensure that all government labor laws are applied and that the severance package meets the norms.
When the act of termination is preceded by accurate documentation over time most labor arbitrators will side with the employer. Accusations of discriminatory action can be avoided by carefully maintained records.
Don’t mince words – Disguising the word termination with softer terms, such as lay off, leaves the employee with a false sense of hope. This can lead to delays in searching and finding new employment.
It can also cause employee disgruntlement, which may lead to falsehoods of unfairness being aired out on social media.
Be Considerate – Try and avoid the Friday PM firing, and give the employee a chance to leave with some dignity. Offering access to counseling to help them find a position in another company is now commonly practiced.
It is appreciated by those who are forced to leave and those that are left behind. Empathy is not expensive and reflects well on the company.
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