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Thu, Jul 12, 2012

Talent Strategies

How to Fire Someone the Right Way

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One of the most difficult parts of your business comes when you realize you have to let an employee go. When that time arrives you want to be sure that you do it the right way. The secret to getting it right is to focus on respect every step of the way, Roberta Matuson, president of Human Resource Solutions, says in this Monster Resource Center Video on how to fire someone. “Think about if you were in their seat: How would you want the situation handled? And use that as you go through these choppy waters.”

It can be tempting to make a termination a surprise and get it all over in one quick interaction, but that’s not the best plan. Employees should never be surprised to find they’re out of a job; they should always have clear warnings of what is coming.

Surprising an employee with the news that she is out of a job “is not good for the employee, it’s not good for you and it’s certainly not good for the people around them,” Matuson says.

For example, when you see performance problems, you need to discuss them with the employee. Then if they persist to the point you’re considering letting him go, you should say something like “‘If things don’t get better, then I won’t have any choice but to terminate our relationship’,” Matuson says. “Then that employee will know that you’ve reached the point where the next time, they may no longer be employed by you.”

Or if you see your business needs changing and think you may not have room for all of your current employees as you change course, you need to be open about what you’re considering. You don’t need to give them all of the details or overshare, but you should communicate that change may be coming, so no one is taken by surprise if you have to let them go.

“As a small business owner, you have an opportunity to have an intimate conversation with an employee who may not be working out as you both had hoped,” Matuson says. “In most cases, they have a pretty good indication that it’s not the right fit as well.”

Whatever the reason you need to let an employee go, “if you see an opportunity to extend to that employee the opportunity to resign instead of be terminated, then take that path,” said Matuson. “Give them the choice and if they accept it, shake hands because you just accomplished an employee termination in a very respectful way that allows everyone to come out in the end feeling pretty good or as good as possible about a situation that usually doesn’t feel so hot.”

When you take a respectful approach to letting an employee go you’ve not only done something good for them, but something good for your business. That employee will be more likely to walk away with a positive impression of you and your business. At the same time, the employees left behind will be secure in the fact that you will treat them with respect no matter what happens with your professional relationship.

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  • John D.

    While I understand what the article suggests can be accomplished by extending the opportunity for an employee to resign it doesn’t mention any discussion about unemployment insurance compensation (UI). In many states, if an employee resigns they may not be eligible for (UI).

    If the employer is willing to forgo arguing against the employee’s UI claim there would be more of a chance they would tender their resignation. However, in this employment climate and the length of time folks need to find new jobs UI is an important consideration in their minds and people are less likely to jeopardize an opportunity for UI as they look for a new job.

    John Duba

  • Rick

    I agree with John that UI is an important factor. IF the separation is due to a company change, then help the employee qualify for UI. BUT if the separation is due to the employee’s inappropriate actions (termination for cause v. lay off), the employee will not qualify for UI anyway. We handle separations accordingly.