"You're fired!" Don't ask me why, but I chuckle to myself?self-consciously?each time I hear The Donald snarl those words at the end of every episode of The Apprentice.But if you're the one who has to do the firing, there's little to laugh about. Because along with deciding how and when to hand out those pink slips, there's always the risk of a possible legal challenge. Depending upon your company's policies, or whether your employee has an employment contract, an employee may file a breach of contract or "wrongful discharge" claim against you."At-will" employers?as most businesses are today?are those who reserve the right to terminate employees without cause. In most cases, they don't need to worry about such claims.
Like all other employers?even if you're an at-will?you'll need to be concerned about other possible claims.Breaking Up Doesn't Have To Be Hard To Do..More than two-thirds of employees who are treated rudely tell the outside world about it.
With firings, the rate is even higher, according to studies by the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.Here are 10 tips for letting people go without bruising their egos. Much of this advice comes from the collective wisdom of human resource professionals, other business executives, and outplacement experts.Give warning.
All performance-based firings should start with a warning or probationary period. If you let someone know they're on the bubble, they just might turn things around. If they've put in years of service, it's the least they deserve.Document, document, document.
Once you've told an employee he or she is on probation, document every task and interaction. The better records you keep, the easier it will be to justify your actions should you find yourself defending them in legal proceedings.Time it right. Fire early in the day and early in the week.
The worst time to terminate an employee is the day before a weekend or holiday.Prepare the paperwork. Don't wait until after you fire the person to deliver termination paperwork. Pay, including any benefits and unused vacation, should be delivered on the spot.
This is not only good policy; frequently it's the law.Don't go it alone. Having a representative from your human resources department in the room adds a sense of gravity and finality to the termination conversation. And if the employee asks a question you can't answer, your expert is right there. It also provides a witness on your side should you end up in court.
Ensure privacy. Make it clear that only you and the HR rep will take part in the termination meeting. Reassure the employee that nobody else will be in on what's happening. Neglecting this will make him or her, self-conscious.
Be brief. Prolonging the meeting can suggest to your employee that he is involved in a negotiation?that there may be a way out. When he realizes there isn't, he will feel betrayed.
Say what you have to say, say it clearly and don't say any more. In this case, less is more.Watch your tone. Choose your words carefully, but make sure you convey a tone of cordiality and sympathy. Be compassionate but firm, honest but guarded.
Never say, "I know what you're going through"?even if you do.Seek feedback. Although it's important to keep the meeting short, encourage the employee to voice his feelings after the news has been delivered. If he doesn't answer immediately, count to 20 before moving on.
The last thing you want is a reputation for being cruel or heartless. If recriminations do take place, take charge and cut him off. Remember?you're declaring him fired, not engaging in a dialogue.Give a good send-off. Always offer words of encouragement and confidence in the employee's future career.
Stand and extend your hand to indicate the meeting has ended. And of course, thank the employee for his service. But don't be surprised or hurt if the employee declines to thank you for firing him.It's a good idea to check with an employment law attorney to make sure your decisions, policies, and practices meet the legal standards where you live and do business.This article is a brief overview.
It is not intended to be a comprehensive discussion of the subject. And, because every set of facts and circumstances may raise different legal issues, this article is not intended to be and should not be regarded as a legal opinion..Les Gore is founder and managing partner of Executive Search International, a Boston-based, nationally recognized search firm and a 23-year vetern of the "recruiting wars." .
By: Les Gore