Terminating Employees: When Retention is Not the Problem

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When Retention is Not the Problem: Terminating Employees

Not all hiring decisions are good ones.  Even though you have checks, balances, and interview protocols in place, sometimes a hire just does not work out.  When you need to separate from an employee, make sure you do it the right way.

As former recruiters, we understand the importance of fit when making a hire.  For many reasons, sometimes a position does not work out for an employee or employer.  In a litigious age, HR personnel and supervisors must be straightforward, clear, and fair when letting go of an employee.

Fire fairly:  Protect your company and brand reputation

Mistakes made during the termination process can lead to trouble.  While terminating an employee is never easy, it does not have to be hurtful.  In a reputation economy, the words you use to discuss termination with an employee can come back in widespread exposure in social media—or even a lawsuit for alleged discrimination.

When considering an employee termination, review these steps:

  • Know what you are doing and why: Employment in almost all states in the country is “at will.”  While that means you can fire a worker—or they can quit—at will, it still requires caution when terminating an employee.  Whether you are a direct supervisor or HR, investigate the reason for termination and ensure you have appropriate, clear documentation to support the decision of the company to terminate an employee.

Determine whether an employment contract exists.  If there is a contract or agreement, understand the basis or cause for termination mentioned in the agreement and the possibility of severance pay.

  • Timing: Even if poor or illegal behavior is apparent, do not fire anyone on the spot.  Termination as a response, not a reaction, is important.  Ideally, the decision has been carefully considered and the reasoning behind the termination is clear and fully understood.
  • Watch the law: A decision to terminate an employee on any kind of leave should be considered carefully.  Federal, and oftentimes state, legislation protects workers on maternity, medical, disability, or family leave under certain circumstances.  If an employee has previously made a whistleblower, harassment, discrimination or retaliation claim, do not terminate an employee without guidance from legal counsel.
  • Follow your handbook: Ideally, your employee handbook clearly describes the termination process, causes, and options available to a former employee post-termination.

When you fully understand the employment file and history, it is time to schedule the termination discussion.

Six steps to smooth the termination process

Help your company, your co-workers, and the departing employee by following these tips for a smooth separation process:

  1. Digital divide: Coordinate with your IT department to eliminate employee access to your company network, files, and other equipment.  Avoid malicious or accident system damage by ensuring it cannot occur.  Present an inventory of equipment to the employee that must be returned along with a list of separation conditions that may be detailed in an employment agreement—such as a non-compete clause.  Ideally, your IT personnel can quickly identify and eliminate access to proprietary company files.
  1. Have the conversation: When a decision is made to terminate an employee, move forward in an efficient manner.  Retaining a problematic or non-productive employee is a drain on morale and company culture.  Schedule the meeting at the end of the day, preferably at the end of the week.  Although employers get flack for these tactics, they are borne out of a desire for low drama and an efficient separation.
  1. Setting: Use a conference room or other setting to speak with your employee.  Be sure there is a witness present, or IT personnel, if devices are required upon termination.
  1. Be careful of unstable employees: Troubled employees could react violently, or return to their workplace with weaponry.  When assessing an employee for termination, make note of any mention in a personnel file that could indicate anger, stress, instability, or tendencies toward suicide.

While lay persons are not qualified to determine if an employee could become violent on termination, steps should be taken if you have concerns.  Think about using an external, neutral party to terminate the individual, conduct the termination off site, engage security personnel during the termination, and ensure the employee has no reason to return to the workplace after termination.  Consider offering severance pay, or arranging other appropriate outside help or job counseling available from the company upon termination.  If there is real concern, contact law enforcement and be sure appropriate personnel are aware of potential future threat.

  1. The talk: Prepare a list of talking points in advance of your meeting, and stay on point.  Follow your employee handbook termination policy.  Provide a clear reason for terminating the employee.  Keep it short without apologizing.  Ask for a response from your employee—let them have their say without interruption.  Do not argue, and do not hedge or apologize.  Describe benefits, such as unemployment or COBRA that might be available.  Escort the employee to gather their possessions.
  1. Post-termination: Initiate the recruiting cycle, back-fill your position, or arrange for job responsibilities to be transitioned accordingly.

The best advice for handling terminating an employee is to prepare in advance.  Know your company policy and handle the meeting courteously and efficiently.

When you are looking for streamlined staffing software to fill or create a new position, talk to us at BrightMove.

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