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To begin, let's start by clearly focusing on one very important fact. Employee termination should be viewed as a process, not a simple event. The actual act of firing someone is only one of several steps you'll want to consider in order to make the separation as effective as possible. There's a lot to consider, and most of it begins long before the actual meeting where the employee is given the news. It all starts with clear work rules and policies. I don't wish to encourage excessive bureaucracy, but basic work rules and regulations should be clear, formal, made accessible to employees, and consistently applied across employees.
Non-existent or sloppy policies are often a problem later when you wish to terminate an employee. Next is the ongoing process of observing and documenting performance. As a leader, you're always collecting data, because data is the backbone of your future decisions, including terminations. If you'd like a more lengthy discussion of how this is done, you might want to check out another one of my courses here on lynda.com, called Performance Review Fundamentals. Next is the process of escalating feedback.
Long before actual termination proceedings begin, your role is to use helpful and critical feedback to assist the employee in meeting required work standards, and if needed, the process escalates to formal warnings, or some form of an improvement plan if performance is consistently low. At this stage, if you're ready to let the person go, it's time to start the formal documentation that will be required through human resources. This will include their required forms, plus all of the performance documentation you collected, annotated as needed to clearly make your case.
What follows next depends on where you work. In some work places, you'll submit the file to a review board and they'll make a decision. In other work places there's no review board, but you're still wise to seek the counsel of more experienced managers and the right HR representative to ensure the quality of your case. When the decision is actually made to terminate, now you have to create a termination agreement. This document will state that employment will cease as of a particular date, it will state the cause for the termination, any issues related to wages or severance, and all pertinent facts surrounding employee benefits.
After the termination agreement, you'll want to consider any potential security concerns, given the particular employee in question. Violence or aggression is very rare, but you're smart to consider the possibility. A good rule of thumb is when in doubt, have another person present with you for the meeting. The last thing before the meeting is to take a few minutes and prepare yourself mentally to take on this task. Letting someone go isn't easy. You become very aware of the stress and difficulty you're about to create in the person's life, even if they really earned it.
Stay focused on the fact that by this point, you've done all you can honestly do to help the person, and that what you're really doing is trying to ensure the long-term success of the team. Be sure to find at least 1 confidant, with whom you can speak openly. You definitely want an outlet that will allow you to talk through the issues to help reduce your stress. Finally, it's time for the meeting. We'll talk in more detail shortly, but just remember that the success of that meeting depends heavily on all of the homework we just discussed.
The good news is that if you're well prepared, the meeting itself will be very short and to the point, usually over in just a few minutes. After talking with the person, and hopefully after obtaining a signed termination agreement, you'll collect company property from them and escort them from the building, but you're still not done. Your last step is to appropriately follow up with the team. When someone is fired, many people experience emotions, not just the person being fired. Your job is to manage this process and reduce ambiguity by proactively addressing the issue with the team.
The key to surviving any difficult challenge is breaking it down into smaller chunks, and doing your homework. You have to plan to be successful. The same is true for employee terminations. When you engage and respect each of the steps in the process, the odds are your employee will remain calm upon hearing the news. Your case will be strong and unquestioned, and the team will remain in the loop with an understanding of why you did what you did.
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