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Firing logic: How to let an employee go | Updated: 4:38:23 PM, Friday May 25, 2012 Firing logic: How to let an employee go

If you run your own business, few things could rival the unpleasantness of firing an employee. Learn how to make the best out of a bad situation.
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If you run your own business, few things could rival the unpleasantness of firing an employee. Learn how to make the best out of a bad situation.

Sacking a staff member can be emotionally charged, awkward and confronting, and can put a serious dampener on workplace morale. They say that letting go isn’t easy, and this is especially true for someone you’ve hired and invested in.

A sure thing

When you’re disappointed in a staff member, it’s easy to let emotions get the better of you. Emotional decisions can sometimes equate to disaster for your business. Even if you adopt a zero-tolerance policy for some behaviours, think carefully about whether your employee’s actions fall within these boundaries.

When it comes to firing someone, there’s no room for murkiness, follow your company’s guidelines and policy down to the fine print. If you make a mistake, there’s no turning back.

Don’t skip the formalities

Aside from a few exceptions, terminating an employee’s contract should be the last resort in a formal and structured process. It’s absolutely critical that you highlight substandard performance, offer additional training and support, establish clear KPIs and a timeline for performance improvement and follow up diligently if you see no signs of progress. And make sure you record each step in writing.

What shouldn’t you do? Don’t decide you want to fire someone and gather evidence to support this choice. It might be a tempting avenue, but it’s unprofessional, unfair and potentially illegal. When it comes to termination etiquette, it always pays to do the right thing.

Be prepared

Preparation is crucial when you’re about to fire someone. How will your employee collect their things? Do you know when you plan to issue a final paycheque? And how will your former staff member access benefits such as superannuation? If you need to introduce another staff member such as an HR Manager, make sure you set this up ahead of time, it’s cruel to turn firing an employee into a waiting game.

Bring in a witness

Although having a second person in the room can sometimes be intimidating, it removes the risk of the employee making false accusations. When it comes to protecting your company, involving a witness in the process is your best resource.

Keep it simple

Long, convoluted explanations have no place in good firing etiquette. If you’ve covered all your bases, all you need to say is “it’s time to let you go.” No one is good at firing an employee and you’ll be tempted to awkwardly ramble, fight this urge by being clear, concise and to the point.

Steer clear of conflict

It’s difficult to anticipate the reaction of an employee who has just been fired. Some people become quiet and introspective, others lash out. Allow for an emotional reaction, but whatever you do, don’t take the bait. Arguing about the fairness of your decision will just rub salt in the wound.

Don’t make empty promises

It’s tempting to battle the guilt of letting someone go by making promises you know you can’t keep. Don’t offer to help them if you can’t, and if you are able to, spell out exactly what you’re prepared to do.

Often the smartest thing you can do is wish them all the best and let them leave in peace. And accept that it might take a little while for the guilt to subside.

There’s no easy way to fire an employee. However, by familiarising yourself with the common mistakes and being honest and resolute in your decision, you can avoid any potential incidents and move forward with your business.

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