Join Todd Dewett for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding employee termination, part of Letting an Employee Go.
For many practicing managers, the hardest thing you'll ever do is let someone go. Firing an employee is difficult. It does pose several types of risks and it can cause strong emotions for those involved. However, when you learn to look at termination in perspective, you'll see that it's a tool. A tool that when used responsibly and with care can help make your team and your organization stronger. Unfortunately, the emotional nature of termination often leads people to take an extreme position.
A small number of managers decide to terminate people very quickly, almost at the first sign of a problem. Another small group of managers choose to never fire anyone no matter how much it might be justified. Let's take just a minute to consider both of these extreme and unacceptable positions. Let's think about the manager who fires far too quickly. First, it should be noted that in the face of extreme employee behavior, an immediate firing could be justified.
Consider for example, violence or embezzling. Outside of the extremes, when a strong conversation of small reprimand might be appropriate, some managers still seek to fire someone. They might be driven by anger, a desire to appear tough or possibly even selfish motives such as a desire to change the mix of talent on the team. No matter what the reason, acting fast is a problem. Aside from possible legal troubles, consider this. First, you're going to seriously hurt the person you've fired.
Your haste will have created unnecessary anger, confusion and immense stress. Next, moving too fast makes you look very harsh in the eyes of others. Whether it's justified or not, to fire someone very quickly will move others to see you as cold and lacking compassion. Finally, when you fire someone too quickly you harm the team. When they watch your behavior, it creates fear and that erodes their trust in you.
As a consequence, you've moved the team closer to mere compliance as opposed to real commitment. Moving too fast is rarely the right choice, because you do want to give second chances and stay focused on employee development. Having said that, you can also move too slow and the results can be just as bad or even worse than moving too fast. If you're in the group that never wants to fire anyone, you need to understand that you might be causing a lot of unintended harm.
First, you're harming the person who actually does need to be fired. They're learning from you that it's okay to under perfrom or engage counterproductive behavior at work. You're helping them feel entitled. Later when they work for someone else, they won't have a realistic understanding of what real performance standards look like. Next, your reputation will take a hit. If you consistently choose not to address strong employee problems, people will not respect you.
In fact, in many companies this behavior will eventually get you fired. Finally, this behavior upsets the team and damages chemistry, camaraderie, and productivity. The team will spend time behind your back talking about how this issue has not been addressed and how angry they are that they have to continue acting like the person in question belongs on the team. Okay, instead of these two extreme positions, you're going to check your emotions and learn how to use the termination process thoughtfully and respectfully.
In fact, used correctly the termination process can help you realize two huge benefits. The first is a genuine chance to help your team improve. Employee turnover for most teams tends to be small over time, which means you don't have many chances to add new talent. Firing someone when it's needed is difficult, but hiring a new team member can be a great silver lining. Believe it or not, the second benefit concerns the person being fired.
When termination is handled correctly, it often provides a person a much needed wakeup call. They learn that continued employment must be earned. They learn that their behaviors do have consequences. These insights could be terribly useful to them moving forward in life. So I'll admit that firing someone is never fun. But when you do it right, you've helped the team improve. You've strengthened your reputation as a reasonable manager. And it's even possible that in the long term, you've helped the person you had to terminate.
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- Reviewing legal issues
- Knowing when termination is appropriate
- Documenting performance problems
- Selecting the right time and place
- Delivering the news
- Telling the rest of the team<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.