9 Things That Make Employee Termination Less Dreadful
If only we could be a bit more like The Donald. He makes firing people so easy on his "Apprentice" shows. Of course he's not an HR professional that must deal with the conflict and the aftermath of an employee termination. Even though it can be stressful, don't rush the process- everyone involved will be better off in the long run, even if you get flak for taking so long. Avoid the worst case scenario: litigation from the terminated party.
How about a checklist to get you through the process? From a pair of lawyers, here are some best practice items to think about.
Before the employee termination meeting...
1. Review any documents pertaining to the subject's post-employment activities, such as non-competition agreements, or confidentiality requirements. At the employee termination meeting, provide them with a copy so there is no doubt.
2. Get your IT department involved in cutting off access to your internal systems. Consider locking them out during the actual meeting so there is no chance of retaliation or theft. Don't neglect any remote access the person may have. Also check email records to see if there have been any company documents emailed to a personal account.
3. Choose the meeting time with great care and attention to detail. Normally it's best at the end of the workday. Think about your exit- it's much easier for you to leave a conference room than to ask the fired employee leave your office.
During the Meeting
4. Explain that their computer password will no longer give them access to your intranet. If they have any personal information, work with them to retrieve it.
5. Arrange to get any company property back: phones, keys, computers, equipment, uniforms and so on. This includes any documents, digital or not, that may be at home. Agree on how to take them back.
6. Be proactive about discrimination. Don't wave off any comments about possible bias or mistreatment. Discuss it and take notes, but also let them know that your action is final. Afterward, check out the story. If there's any merit to it at all, it's best to get a legal professional involved.
After the Meeting
7. Should the person be escorted back to their workplace and supervised until they are off the property? Hopefully not. At least give a heads up to their department head or other associate to keep an eye out for anything untoward. Balance preservation of their dignity with prudence and the needs of your other employees.
8. Make sure your employee termination letter is clear, dated and final. Some states require a reason for termination to be included, so check your local laws. Fulfill all your policy manual obligations to the letter.
9. Address any issues related to their final paycheck with a breakdown explaining the amount. Again, state laws vary, but you may need to consider unused vacation time, sick time, severance package, etc. Arrange how they would like to receive it.
And finally, don't make these potentially litigious mistakes!
- Neglect to explain the "Why" behind the situation. Softening the blow by sugarcoating the truth or exaggerating is difficult to defend if you are called to account.
- Throw out company precedent. Consistency with past solutions will cover a multitude of sins, so when in doubt, go back and study the way it was done before
- Mistreating the fired person. Word will spread through social media about how you handled the termination, so make it as respectful and honorable as possible. Your company's reputation is at stake.
- Not firing people. This kills morale quicker than anything, and it can kill an entire company! Separate business from your personal feelings or reticence to take action. Get some help from colleagues, but please- keeping a non-productive employee doesn't help anyone!
Now get in front of that mirror, comb your hair to the front and repeat after me: "I have some bad news. It is my duty to inform you that your employment with us has been terminated, effective immediately."
And may your next employee termination meeting be less dreadful than the last one!
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