I didn’t finish post-secondary university to earn my business degree (BA) nor do I have an MBA.
I don’t believe either teach you how to properly fire someone. Whether they do or not, many people I know leading companies and teams haven’t properly been taught how to either.
When I read Bob Iger’s book he outlined his philosophy on how to fire someone.
In his book, he says:
“There is no good playbook for how to fire someone, I have my own internal set of rules.”
This got me thinking about my own set of rules on how to offboard employees.
I like to follow five key steps:
1. This Shouldn’t Be a Surprise
When an employee is let go they shouldn’t be surprised by the decision. At this point, they should have already received verbal and written warnings of their poor performance.
Having each infraction document is crucial, not only for employee legal reasons but also for the employee’s awareness that their employment with your company may soon be in question.
If the infraction is grave, such as sexual, physical or emotional abuse, then the termination should happen immediately after your investigation into the matter.
If your employee is genuinely surprised by your decision then I would argue that you have mismanaged this person.
2. Have A Sign-Off Sponsor For All Hires
I like to have another person within my team also sign off on the termination. More often than not, someone else on your team will also agree with your decision. However, if you can’t find someone to agree with you then perhaps the issue may be with you. Perhaps, you’ve mismanaged this person or you aren’t seeing something others are.
If you’re able to find another person to agree with you then this person should also be invited to the termination meeting. Hopefully, the termination will not lead to legal issues but, if it does, then this person will act as your support if it leads to a “he said, she said” scenario.
3. Say It Immediately
As soon as the door is closed to the meeting the person being terminated should know within ten seconds that the reason this meeting is happening is that they are being let go.
No chit chat. No extended pleasantries. Get to the point immediately with confidence.
If this is the first time you’ve let someone go you may be nervous. Don’t let your emotions or nerves get the best of you. More often than not, they will if you don’t get straight to the point.
4. Provide Examples
If the employee knows why they are being fired then it’s not likely that you will have to defend your decision with concrete examples.
However, it’s always a good idea to at least generally (not needing to get into fine details unless asked) speak to why they are being let go.
Some HR professionals may tell you that this is not a good idea because there can be legal ramifications used against you in court if you say the wrong thing. My opinion is that if you’re going to get sued for firing someone then you should be confident in your decision and be ready to defend your reasoning inside and outside of court.
I’m not scared to be sued by someone I let go because I know that we did it with integrity and followed the rules.
5. Be Fair and Compassionate
I wouldn’t suggest firing someone before a holiday or their birthday, it’s just not the right thing to do. However, there can be circumstances (they are seriously going against your company values, theft, and other serious misconducts) that you can’t work around and need to consider the business and your other employees.
If an employee is let go I do like to give them a very fair severance, not just the bare minimum. After all, you would want someone to do the same for you if you were in their position. At the end of the year, when you’re setting your operating budgets, you should have a GL code on your P&L for severance. After all, no company is perfect and you will have to let some team members go.
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