Taking the Sting Out of Terminating Employees
Sometimes good companies go through financial rough spots when business slows, and the only sure way to weather the storm is to lay off good employees.
Other times, in staying true to the company vision, employees that are not meshing with the company’s climate or goals need must be eliminated to make room for others who will be a better fit.
Unless they lack a sense of humanity, most supervisors dislike having to let someone go. Like the excision of cancer from a body, firing in a business must be done with precision and with a deep regard for the post-op health of the remaining workforce. Aggressive is not as important as precise.
Regardless of your seat in the office, neither the job eliminator nor the job loser will be 100% satisfied with the outcome. Therefore, careful planning will go a long way to softening the blow to both the soon-to-be-ex employee and the company that will feel the loss afterward. Even the removal of one employee can affect an entire department, adding to everyone else’s workload, and potentially breeding discension in the ranks.
Don’t Make “Waves”
How comfortable would you feel sailing on a vessel you know nearly sank before? If your company must downsize, “one and done” should be the rule of thumb. Firing employees in waves paralyzes the remaining staff. It is best to pull the bandaid off and move forward with intent, allowing the wound to heal as quickly as possible.
Hoping that you won’t have to lay off more good people is not a business strategy. It is better to have to hire more employees when business turns around than to have to fire in waves and keep everyone on edge or demoralized.
Give Time to Prepare
Some managers, hoping to move swiftly and not prolong the agony and also meaning to return the place to “normal” as soon as possible, offer very little advance notice when laying-off employees. This maneuver can cause discomfort and instill fear in the remaining employees, as they naturally question if they, too, could be layed off with only days to revise their resume and search for another position. Managers, then, that feared that too much notice would undermine employee morale in the short run, may find morale even worse than they anticipated for the long haul. For a good and loyal employee, offering two weeks notice to exit the company might work in the company’s and the employee’s favor.
Dot your I’s and Cross your T’s
As an owner or manager, the reasons you must terminate an employee might be crystal-clear. You quickly recall all of the areas in which the employee’s performance has been sub-par, but have you conveyed to the employee your expectations versus their performance? Does the employee know why they are being terminated?
Clearly define your expectations, note performance issues immediately when they occur and share your findings with the employee. Keeping everyone up to speed along the way will create the appropriate documentation, and show cause, should you need to fire that employee in the future.
Just the Facts
Explain to the employee that you are terminating them. If the firing is “for cause” stick to the facts. Succinctly point out your reasons for the termination, such as referencing the goals you had set during the last performance review that they employee has not attained. It is sometimes beneficial when terminating an employee “for cause” to have a witness present in case the employee disagrees with management’s assessment.
Always Keep the Human Touch
Whatever you call it; firing, downsizing, being let-go, or being shown the door, is traumatic for the person losing their job. Whether or not you have been on the receiving end of such news, be empathetic. Informing family and friends that you have lost your job is emotional regardless whether your job performance was an issue or your company is downsizing.
Your employee certainly has financial responsibilites–rent, car loans, student loans, and living expenses to name a few–that will be an immediate concern. Your employee also must leave your office to face co-workers and then family and friends to break the news that they no longer have an income.
Soften the blow in whatever manner you can. Have tissues available in the office when you speak with the employee, allow adequate time for the employee to pack their personal effects in their office, and allow your employee time to process the information and even ask questions before you end the meeting. Some employers make it their practice to let employees go first thing in the morning or at close of business—times of the day when fewer other employees are present– so that they can avoid uncomforable encounters with their former co-workers.
Whether the firing is due to downsizing or for cause, explain what, if any, severance package the employee will receive, and what benefits, such as health insurance, will continue and for how long.
Whenever possible, assist your employees with the transition. If you can make glowing recommendations to help them mind new positions, do so. If the employee is bright and talented, but not the right fit for your company, offer guidance as to where their skills might be a better fit.
With some luck, ten years hence that employee will see this blip in their career as the gamechanger that opened doors they didn’t know existed on their career path. Until then, a little finesse can make the firing, easier on both of you.11
TAGS: career management