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IT’S A DIRTY JOB BUT SOMEBODY HAS TO DO IT!! THOUGHTS ON TERMINATING AN EMPLOYEE
“Getting fired is nature’s way of telling you that you had the wrong job in the firstplace.” Hal Lancaster in the Wall Street Journal
“You’re fired!” No other words can so easily and succinctly reduce a confident, self-assured executive to an insecure, groveling shred of his former self.” Frank Louchheim
It’s just not working for whatever reason. Perhaps there is a need to downsize and the employee’s position is one that can be eliminated, or quite possibly the employee’s performance does not meet expectations. Boundaries have been breached. Rules have been broken that either has to do with how the employee performs or how the business performs. Whatever the reason, an employee must be terminated. Yes, fired.
“One of the hard lessons being a manager has taught me is this: the health of the business is more important than the well-being of any one employee.” It is upsetting to a manager to know that his actions will cause distress to an employee’s family, but “it’s more important to defend the integrity of the group.” Good employees hate working with inefficient or maybe even dishonest colleagues. Paul Downs on NY Times Blog
As a manager it is your job to handle the termination. Sadly, so much of the time the employee is not expecting to be “let go.” It is heartbreaking when the employee is trying his best and just can’t do the job yet finds himself blindsided when he must be terminated.
“One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown if the belief that one’s work is terribly important.” Bertrand Russell
Employees are often surprised and shocked when it becomes necessary to fire them. Termination meetings are uncomfortable for all concerned. Even in circumstances in which the employee NEEDS to be let go for countless good reasons, managers and/or HR directors are put in a most uncomfortable position. People deserve to be treated with respect especially in the midst of this humbling, frightening experience. After all, the employee will have no job!!!
There is no easy way to deliver the news but there are guidelines that when followed make all those involved – manager and employee feel valued and human. Conducting a termination meeting is a management skill that must be honed. In refining this sensitive important skill, consider the following:
- The worst thing can be acting like a robot and going through the motions. Be humane and remember that you could end up on the other side of the desk. Perhaps you have been in the past.
- Be respectful and look someone in the eye.
- Don’t be cagey about reasons. Explain briefly why the decision to terminate was made. Refer to the employee handbook if it is appropriate. Here is the point at which a manager can be a real leader. Recommend an environment in which the employee could be successful. Be supportive.
Don’t be overly friendly. “I once fired someone and was so nice that they didn’t realize they were actually fired.” Alison Brod – Alison Brod Public Relations
- The message must be clear and concise. Lead off with the bad news and then quickly soften the blow with statements like “I’m sorry this position wasn’t a good fit for you,” or “Thank you for your contributions.”
- Don’t forget to involve the HR team. If possible have an HR rep in the meeting or arrange for one to be available afterward to explain final pay, and ongoing health benefits.
“Handled creatively, getting fired allows an executive to actually experience a sense of relief that he never wanted the job he lost.” Frank Louchheim