No matter what the circumstances are, letting an employee go is never going to be an easy decision to come to or task to undertake; however there are a few things that you can do to avoid burning any bridges. Unfortunately as an employer it’s just one of those things that you’re probably going to have to face at one time or another, but when the time comes it’s important to break the news quickly and gently to avoid hard feelings, or unnecessary drama.
To make sure things go smoothly, here are a few simple do’s and don’ts of firing someone.
DO consider your decision fully beforehand
Make sure that you are 100% certain about your decision and that your reasons behind it are completely justified before moving forward with the dismissal, as there will be no going back once you have spoken to the individual. As soon as you have come to your final decision, act quickly, so that you don’t allow it to drag on and negatively affect any other employees or the running of business.
DON’T fire someone without warning
There’s nothing worse than just springing it upon someone out of the blue! If the employee is being let go on the basis of poor performance, make sure that you hold a meeting before taking action, to let them know about your concerns and allow them the chance to turn things around. If the employee’s performance hasn’t been up to scratch, then you should consider issuing a series of warnings before the employee can be dismissed.
DO let them know in person
Realise that you are dealing with a human being with emotions and rights. By no means should you break the news on the phone or via email. It’s important that you arrange a face-to-face meeting in order to show them respect and respond to their reaction appropriately.
DON’T get someone else to do the dirty work
It’s not the most pleasant job to do, but dumping the job on someone else who doesn’t directly supervise the member of staff you are letting go will come across as pretty unprofessional. Not only does it make it harder for the individual being fired if they are unfamiliar with the person passing on the news, but it won’t give a very good impression to your other staff either. The news should come from someone who knows the individual and is qualified to properly explain the reasons for their termination.
DO give them a full explanation
You can’t dismiss an employee without having a justified reason, so you must be prepared to explain exactly why you are letting them go. Prepare what you are going to say ahead of the meeting, so that you provide them with all the information they need to know, as well as the appropriate paperwork. Be clear about the fact that you are firing the individual and the process from then on, so there is no confusion about the situation. You must also inform the employee of any rights or entitlements that they may have.
DON’T do it in front of an audience
Don’t let the person know in a public place, or in front of any other colleagues, as they have a right to privacy and should have the opportunity to process the news before others find out. Arrange a meeting that is in a neutral and private location, free from disruptions, such as a meeting or conference room.
DO allow the employee to ask questions
The individual has the right to understand 100% why they are being let go, so it’s important that you allow them to ask any questions they may have about why they are being dismissed and what happens next. Emotions are likely to be running high and different people will react in different ways, so give them the opportunity to voice their thoughts. Provide them with honest answers, however avoid getting into a debate about the situation or allowing the conversation to get heated.
DON’T get personal
The reason for firing the employee should be entirely related to their performance or the needs of the business. It is important that you keep your emotions in check and explain the decision without sharing any of your personal thoughts about them as an individual or involving any grievances you may have. Allowing personal feelings or issues to cloud your judgement or contribute to your decision can open you up to a law suite and can create problems within the organisation.
DO show the individual respect
Show the individual respect and demonstrate discretion. It’s likely that they may become upset or angry, but try not to get defensive or enter an argument with them. Instead, put yourself in their shoes and allow them to react to the news in the way they feel fit (within reason). The best approach to take is to be kind and sympathetic towards them, while expressing your regret that the employment didn’t work out. Think about the timing of your dismissal to, as firing somebody just before a holiday is probably a little harsh if it’s avoidable.
DON’T end on a low note
There’s no need to burn any bridges if possible, so try to end your conversation on a positive note. Thank the employee for their contributions during their time at the company and wish them luck in the future. You may even want to offer to provide them with a reference is necessary.