All employers will inevitably have to terminate an employee’s employment. Firing an employee is stressful for all parties involved, not just for the employee losing his job and the decision to fire an employee is always challenging to make. Since terminating a person’s employment can be an emotional process, it is essential to manage it professionally. Employers must know how to appropriately fire an employee and how to protect their company from any legal repercussions. Below are the top 10 things an employer does not want to do when firing an employee.
1. Do not fire an employee unless you are meeting face-to-face. How an employer fires an employee is incredibly important. It is unprofessional and inappropriate to fire an employee using any electronic method, including emails, voicemails, or phone calls. If you are going to fire an employee, they deserve a face-to-face meeting. Although COVID may require the meeting to take place over Zoom, the employee deserves a face-to-face meeting and the employer should not resort to terminating a person’s employment over email due to the fact that everyone is working from home.
2. Do not terminate an employee’s employment without warning. Unless an immediate, egregious act occurs, an employee should be provided with feedback or a warning prior to being fired. Nothing will make an employee angrier than feeling blindsided when getting fired. Before an employer decides to fire an employee, employers should ensure all warnings given to the employee have been documented in the event a lawsuit is brought over the termination.
3. Do not start the termination meeting without a witness. It is in an employer’s best interest to include a second employee in the meeting when firing an employee. Often, the witness is a member of the Human Resources’ department, who has more experience in firing employees than the average manager, so they will also be able to keep conversation on track and move to completion. The HR person will also ensure that the meeting is conducted fairly and professionally.
4. Do not let the employee think your decision is not final. Because most employees do not believe that they will be fired in the first place, it is important to not allow the employee to think that they have a chance to change your decision to fire them. While it is important to treat the employee with respect, kindness and concern during the meeting, your words must be straightforward and unwavering. Start the meeting with a clear statement explaining to the employee that the purpose of this meeting is to inform the employee of your decision to terminate their employment. You do not want to mislead the employee into believing that they can affect the outcome of the conversation.
5. Do not draw out the conversation longer than it needs to be. While every employee will ask you why they are being fired, there is no point for an employer to rehash their dissatisfaction when firing the employee. Employers should prepare an answer that is honest and correctly summarizes the reason for firing the employee without placing blame or including too much detail. An employer may want to cite the issues previously discussed during the employee’s prior performance reviews or when warnings were issued to the employee. It is ideal for the employee to maintain their dignity during the conversation, so it is important for employers not to prolong the conversation any longer than necessary.
6. Do not end the meeting on a low note. It is in everyone’s best interests to make sure that the former employee is able to move forward with their life as quickly as possible, so it is important to end the meeting on a positive note. If you allow terminated employees to collect unemployment, the employee should be told that. You do not want the meeting to turn into a counseling session but you do want to provide the employee with words of encouragement. However, no matter how kind you are, expect the employee to be upset with the decision to fire him.
7. Do not allow the former employee to access his coworkers or his work area. Many employees will be visibly upset when they are fired. To protect their dignity and to not upset other employees, it is a good idea to make arrangements with the employee to come in after work hours or on a weekend to pick up their personal belongings. This will allow you to extract company materials or documents, customer files, etc., from their office before the employee comes to pick up his possessions. Once an employee has been informed that they are being fired, always ensure that the employee is accompanied by another employee, preferably a member of the HR department, to his work area to collect his personal possessions.
8. Do not let the employee leave with any company property. It is important for the employee to turn any keys, badges, electronics or any other company-owned equipment or supplies the employee has in his possession during the termination meeting. If the employee has any company-owned property at his work area, accompany the employee back to his work area to retrieve those items before the employee is escorted out of the office after the meeting has concluded. If any company-owned property is at the employee’s home, it is important to make a solid arrangement as to when the property will be returned to the company. This may include offering to pick up the property from the former employee’s home.
9. Do not allow the employee to have access to company information systems. It is important that the employee’s access to your company’s electronic systems, such as email, customer databases, etc., are terminated during the termination meeting. You want to prevent the employee from taking any company-information after they have been terminated or from contacting any clients or customers. This will require you to coordinate with your IT department to ensure the loss of access occurs at the desired time. If an employee wants to send a goodbye note, you can offer to send the note on the employee’s behalf.
10. Do not begin the meeting without having prepared a checklist of items to accomplish during the termination meeting. While the conversation during the termination meeting can be awkward and uncomfortable, it is important to create an employment termination checklist to keep the conversation organized and on-track. The checklist will ensure that all appropriate topics are covered during the meeting. Further, the checklist will provide guidance about informing the employee of what they can expect legally and from your company upon their employer termination.
While firing an employee is not the most sought-after experience to have has an employer, you can make the experience more palatable by using a supportive and effective approach to a hard conversation. It is important to remember that how you handle the meeting and actions taken do matter to the employee being fired and can impact whether the employee chooses to take any legal actions against your company. By avoiding these top 10 mistakes, you can ensure your process to terminate an employee’s employment is efficient, productive and protects the former employee’s dignity.