New Manager Guide to Firing Someone
It’s never easy to fire someone, but it’s worse to keep on a substandard performer if you want to build a high performance team. Think of it this way, if you don’t say goodbye to an underperforming or misfit employee, you under-value the hard work and talent of the rest of the team. You risk being left with workers who have become accustomed to an employer who is willing to accept low standards.
Don’t start off your management track by allowing underperformers who cannot (or who will not) improve to remain on your team. Know that the problem with most terminations is that they don’t happen as quickly as they should. Unfortunately, new manager training neglects this topic too often.
How to Fire Someone the Right Way
- Be Sure You Can Justify the Termination
Check in with HR as you consider terminating an employee to be sure you are on solid legal ground. Be able to justify your decision and ensure that the firing is not personal but a consequence of either poor work performance or behaviors that are misaligned with your corporate values.Whenever possible, we believe that every struggling employee should be given at least 90-days to improve before they are terminated. Once the employee has been unable to improve with your genuine coaching and support, it is best for them and for you that they move on.
- Plan Your Script
Termination is serious. You need to be fully prepared, point-by-point, and stick to your script. Acknowledge that you have some bad news and explain the reasons compassionately, simply, and concisely. Avoid apologies or empty sympathy. Neither plays well in the emotion-charged atmosphere.
- Be Deliberate about the Timing
You will have to judge what timing is best in the day and best in the week. Typically, managers choose Friday near closing time. But the guideline should be what is best for the company and coworkers. Try to find a time that is least disruptive to the business.
- Listen to the Employee
Once you’ve delivered the message, give the employee a chance to respond. Listen well and then tailor your responses to the way the employee is taking the bad news.If they are in shock or angry, acknowledge the emotion, don’t debate or defend, repeat the message and don’t back down. If they are in denial, make sure the message was received by repeating it. If they are in sorrow, once again acknowledge the feeling and try to look to the future.
- End the Conversation
Cover all the particulars of leaving such as when they will receive pay that is due, what happens to accrued vacation days, and how you will handle references and advising coworkers. Thank them for their time with the company and walk with them to their desk to collect personal items and to the exit door for a final handshake. The goal is to make the departure as easy as possible and to respect the employee’s dignity throughout.
The Bottom Line
As with any difficult conversation, the right way to terminate an employee is not to procrastinate but to plan it well. Use this new manager guide to firing someone. You might find that the employee’s coworkers are relieved that the decision has been made and they can get back to work with the energy and talent their job deserves.
To learn more about how to have difficult conversations as a new manager, download Effective Communication Skills – The Essential Ingredient in Any Interaction