There are many challenges that come with a leadership role, but one of the most difficult and unpleasant is letting an employee go. Whether firing someone for a specific action (or inaction) or eliminating positions during company-wide layoffs, letting someone go is a delicate issue that not only affects the employee but can also have an impact on the morale of the company. Local leaders share some tips below for making the process as smooth and professional as possible.
“A released employee should never be ‘shocked.’ Progressive disciplinary processes ensure that an employee is informed of what isn’t working in their performance (and hopefully chooses to improve). Through progressive disciplinary and coaching, an employee is being given the opportunity to show that the position is a good fit and that they desire to remain with the firm. If the employee’s performance does not improve, then they are given the opportunity to find a job that is a good fit.”
—Nicole Stuart, President of Top Guard Security
“One of the best things to do for the soon-to-be former employee and yourself is to have a process. Whether it is the end result of a personal action plan or meeting with management and HR to discuss final consequences of a policy violation, be consistent with your documentation and your approach. Don’t wing it ... keep it short and to the point. It is not a time for discussion or justification … that has probably already been done. The foundation of the message is that it’s not a good fit. Deliver the news with dignity and mutual respect and remember it’s not personal, it’s business.”
—Lori Chesson, Recruiting Manager of Priority Staffing
“When you hire an employee, it is important to review their performance within the first two to three weeks. If everything is great, fine, but if not, use the next week to carefully examine whether the employee will be a worthwhile addition or needs to be let go. Making the decision to let an employee go sooner rather than later is better for everyone involved.
First, from the employer point of view, the employer may not be charged for unemployment compensation if the employee is let go promptly. Second, if the employee made a number of errors, it may be wise to audit everything the employee touched to find every mistake. The longer the employee worked, the longer that will take. From the employee’s perspective, a discharge within a few weeks will be easier to explain than a discharge after many months. Also, if the employee chose this position over another offer, they may still be able to go back to the other offer if that job is still available. So, while it may sound harsh, in reality the best practice is to make a decision early on as to whether the employee has the skills necessary to do the job they are hired for.”
—Barry Dorans, Attorney at Law for Wolcott Rivers Gates
“When we find that a person might not be the right fit for our organization, whether it be from a job performance or culture fit, we start documenting. Having documentation, including details of poor performance or attitude, performance improvement plans, counseling to remediate the issues that are causing the organization problems and finally failed efforts to make the necessary improvements or changes that the position requires will protect the organization from issues down the road.
—Leon D. Garber, CEO of Dermacare Hampton Roads
“Before you let someone go from your organization, be sure to have a concise process for revoking access to company assets. Consider access to credit cards or other financial accounts, logins to email, business software or documents, keys to the building—any place this person had access and can insert themselves into your business. Also, depending on the terminated person's role in your organization and access to vendors or key accounts, you may even want to alert key points of contacts in those organizations of the termination as well.”
—Michael D. Luter, CEO and Founder of Arrowhead Environmental Services