How to Let An Employee Go

Letting go of an under performing employee is not an admirable situation to be in. You may have been involved with hiring this person yourself, and you probably had high expectations for their performance. Unfortunately, when an employee fails to live up to expectations then it may be time to let them go. We realize that might not be easy, but there are certain steps that you can take to make the process as easy as possible both for yourself and for the employee you’re letting go.

Give the Employee Adequate Warning

If an employee is fired it shouldn’t come as a surprise to them. That’s because they should already have an idea that they’re not performing their job as well as they should be. Whether it’s you who’s told them or someone else on the management team, you should give an employee several warnings that their job performance is less than satisfactory and they need to improve their work if they want to stay at the company.

Not only may this actually take care of the problem and bring their work up to par, but if it doesn’t, it protects you from legal action. Employees who are fired without any warning are the most likely to take legal action later on. Finally, many employers have found that when they talk to employees about their poor performance, a certain percentage of them acknowledge it and quit on the spot. That can save both of you quite a bit of heartache and hassle.

Prepare for the Day

One of the worst things that you can do is to go into a room with an employee who you’re about to let go without preparing for it. If you’ve never had to fire an employee before, you may be nervous and might have trouble remembering what you wanted to say. If you think that’s going to be a problem you might want to consider writing down talking points or practicing your speech several times. On top of that you should also be prepared with any other details, like what to do with a company keycard, how to return company property, and what kind of benefits an employee is entitled to. You don’t want the process to be long, drawn out, and any messier than it needs to be. Prepare yourself just like you would for a meeting or presentation and you’ll find that the whole process will go much smoother.

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Choose a Good Time and Location

Even though the person you’re going to let go may not be a valuable member of the team, they still deserve to be treated as well as anyone else. You shouldn’t schedule a time to let them go between two meetings when you’re going to be stressed out. Instead, pick a time of day when you’ll have a chance to gather your thoughts and calmly answer any questions that the employee may have while he or she is being let go. As for location, the best places are quiet, and well apart from other areas where employees work. Conference rooms or an unused office are all good examples of this.

Document the Process

You can put yourself and your business at risk by firing an employee without properly documenting the process. That’s because if the employee chooses to file a lawsuit against your business, and you don’t have the proper documentation in place, you’ll be significantly more likely to lose the suit. To prevent this from happening you should document all employee infractions, any written warnings, and the exact expectations of the job as set forth by you, and agreed upon by the employee when you hired them. These can all protect you and help you to win a lawsuit should an employee choose to file one.

Consider Having Someone With You

If you’re nervous about letting an employee go, you might want to consider having someone else in the room to help support you in the process. If you work for a larger company your best bet is to have someone from human resources. On the other hand, if it’s a smaller business, you should consider having someone in the room who you trust to help you, and also to not share any details of the termination. Getting let go is an embarrassing process, and the person who you’re letting go shouldn’t have to worry about the third person in the room sharing details with coworkers or other people that they may know well.

Don’t Make Up Non Existent Issues

Sometimes a person simply doesn’t fit into a certain work environment. Maybe their character is a bad fit, they don’t have the right skill set, or other coworkers just don’t like them. This is a justifiable reason to let someone go, as harmony in the workplace is an important part of creating a positive work environment. If the employee you’re about to let go doesn’t fit in, you can tell them this. What you shouldn’t do is make up imaginary performance problems. Be honest with an employee about the reasons for their termination and you’ll save both yourself and them a lot of trouble.

Keep it Short

Letting an employee go is not a process that you want to draw out. That’s why you should have a plan before going into the room to let an employee go. You don’t want to talk on and on for twenty minutes. Have your talking points, cover them, give an employee a chance to ask any questions that they might have, and then end it. This will make it easier both for you and for the person that you’re letting go.

Finally, Ask Yourself, Can We Make Any Changes?

If you notice yourself needing to let go more employees than normal, or you’re seeing one type of problem continually arising in the workplace, ask yourself if your hiring practices may need to be rethought. Perhaps you share the blame just as much as the employees you’re letting go. That’s why you should always be asking yourself what went wrong with that employee, and what you can do in the future to avoid that problem. It might be tough to let someone go, but if you learn from it, you should be able to increase your employee retention in the future.

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