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Firing the Right Way: What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Do to Protect Your Middle Tennessee Company

You’ve tried everything: verbal and written warnings, training, performance incentives, counseling…and nothing has worked.  You feel bad, but your only recourse is to terminate an employee.

Sound familiar?

While you may not relish the idea of firing an employee, it’s part of the job and is sometimes necessary to ensure the continued success of your business.  Thankfully, there are things you can do to make the process respectful and compassionate.  These suggestions will help you spare the employee’s ego, minimize conflict and protect your business:

Never act in the “heat of the moment.”  If you fire someone out of frustration, fear or anger, you’re setting yourself up for a lawsuit.  Instead, take a step back and conduct a thorough investigation, obtaining information from all parties involved.  If your only option is to terminate an employee, get advice first from a human resources professional or employment lawyer.  These experts can help ensure you abide by state and federal laws, as well as your company’s unique employment policies.

Get your ducks in a row.  Simplify the employee’s transition by handling termination logistics before calling the employee in.  Create a clear plan for the employee to return company property, clean out his desk/office and consult with HR on pay/benefits to expedite the separation.

Pick a neutral site.  A conference or meeting room is best for holding your termination meeting.  If possible, avoid holding the meeting in your office.  If the employee gets too upset, he might not want to leave your office, putting you both in an awkward position.

Skip the small talk.  Don’t bother trying to warm the mood or to pretend it’s an ordinary exchange – you’re only delaying the inevitable.  Save the platitudes and limit the meeting to 10 minutes or less.

Stay neutral.  Keep it pleasant, but not too friendly.  Let the employee down as easily as you can without being unprofessional.  Remember, you are not this person’s comforter – he can go home to his spouse, friends or family for the support he needs.  Above all else, never lose your temper.  If you become hostile, it’s more likely the employee will file a lawsuit or grievance.

Empathize.  Try to put yourself in the employee’s shoes and understand what he’s going through.  Be patient when you talk to him and keep your cool if he becomes angry, upset or frustrated.  Offer whatever resources your company provides to ease the employee’s transition.

Be decisive.  Make sure that both your tone and wording are resolute.  Giving an employee “wiggle room” or false hope will only encourage him to try and argue to save his job.  If you find yourself getting dragged into a pointless discussion, take charge by saying something like, “I’ll be glad to talk about this as long as you like, but you should know that nothing we discuss will change the decision.”

Be honest.  If you’re downsizing, leave performance out of the picture.  But if performance is the issue, don’t try to hide behind an excuse to make the conversation easier for you.  You’ll be doing the employee a disservice and opening your business to potential problems – especially if you later hire someone to fill the vacant slot.  Be direct about your reason for termination, even if it’s difficult for one or both of you.

One of the benefits of Wood Personnel’s temporary and contract staff is never having to fire them!  As their employer of record, we take care of replacing and/or reassigning workers.  Contact Wood Personnel today to find out more about our staffing and recruiting services for Nashville and Middle Tennessee employers.