So far, in this mini-series on the topic of employee termination, I covered the concept of employment at-will and tips for re-training and disciplining staff members. In this issue, I’ll provide some tips on how to actually fire someone along with the two phrases that will make that unpleasant task rather easy.
The employment record
As a review, the principle of employment at-will means that you do not need a reason to fire someone (and they don’t need a reason to quit). However, if you have some notes that indicate you have a job-related reason for firing an employee, you can prevent a claim that you discriminated against a protected class. So, in most cases, you will meet with the employee and let her know that you are not happy with some aspect of her work. This is not only good for legal reasons, but it is also smart practice management to try to rehabilitate an employee before dismissing her.
Making the act of dismissal easier
Once you have decided to terminate employment, do not give the employee a reason at that point. She most likely already knows the reason anyway, but resist the urge to go over it again. This can be challenging, because it may feel slightly rude to not indicate a reason and to not reply if the employee asks for one, but remember that it is much more likely that emotion and anger will ensue if you give a reason. Giving a reason for firing someone is much like trying to get them to agree that they are no good. The dismissed person is not going to agree with you on that point.
Citing reasons for dismissal are mostly designed to make you feel better about the process. But since the employee will not likely agree with your assessment, you simply open the door to an argument about the reasons. Don’t do it.
Meet with the employee privately with the door closed. Have a box of tissues handy but not obvious (may not be needed, but best to be prepared). Use the exact sentences that I give you in the next section. The meeting will be short and to the point.
Two sentences to say verbatim
Here are the two sentences that work extremely well when you have to fire someone. Memorize them and say them to the employee.
• (Employee name), it is just not working out.
• I think it is best if we part ways.
Pause for a moment and let the words sink in. The employee will realize she is being fired and may ask why or may object in some way. In that case, simply repeat the two sentences again. The reason she is being fired is that “it is just not working out.” That is as specific as you can be. Try to remain non-emotional.
Next, tell the former employee what the next steps should be. I do not advise that you allow the employee to finish the day or work any further. The next steps will vary based on your policies, but here are some examples:
• Your regular paycheck will be processed on payday as usual and will include your unused vacation or personal days.
• I have a severance check here for you in the amount of ______.
• Please get all your personal belongings and leave the building now.
• Please give your key to me (or the manager) before you leave.
• I wish you well in the future.