Terminating an employee is not for the faint of heart. Emotions are boiling, frustrations are high, and then there are the friendships, family situations, employee morale, and other concerns that flood a good manager’s mind when the need to fire arises. No matter the situation, here are six things to consider before firing an employee.
1. Before you fire an employee, assess the employee’s violation.
Was the employee’s behavior related to poor performance? Have you addressed performance problems with the employee previously? Has the employee had a chance to improve performance based on a previous warning? Or is the violation of company policy so extreme that it requires immediate termination without warning? There are few instances where one violation automatically warrants immediate termination. Be sure to get a second opinion by contacting your HR rep before firing.
2. Before you fire an employee, investigate the incident(s).
There may be extenuating circumstances to consider before pulling the trigger. You may discover that things didn’t play out the way you initially thought, and discipline is more appropriate than termination. Avoid making snap decisions before thoroughly assessing the situation.
3. Before you fire an employee, consider the employee’s history.
An employee should never be surprised when they are let go. Whether there’s a serious infraction of company policy or the employee has a series of progressive discipline from performance issues, before you terminate an employee, be sure the employee already had ample warning what would happen if their performance didn’t improve. Need some tips on how to address performance problems? Read How to Have Difficult Conversations with Employees.
4. Before you fire an employee, determine if the employee is in a protected class.
There are a number of laws that protect employees from decisions that are discriminatory based on gender, race, religion, age, color, national origin, pregnancy, disability, having filed a complaint, taking protected leave, and so on. Check with your HR rep to ensure there are no risks you are overlooking before terminating an employee.
5. Before you fire an employee, consider if the company has already set a precedent.
Have there been similar situations that have occurred previously at your workplace? If so, what disciplinary action was used? If this is the first time an incident like this happened, keep in mind that you’re setting a precedent for others to follow, should a similar situation arise in the future. Be sure your actions are helping the company and not setting you up for a potential lawsuit.
6. When you’re ready to fire an employee, don’t wait too long.
Dead-beat employees pull down employee morale by their lack of performance and should never be strung along. A well-thought-out firing decision may actually strengthen employee morale and let employees know that you’re serious about upholding your company’s policies and work ethic. Learn from Uber – waiting too long to investigate and eventually fire employees can be detrimental to your company’s image.
Be sure to document each step and decision you make whenever you’re discussing work performance with an employee for a fool-proof termination. For help with your specific situation, please contact our HR experts at firstname.lastname@example.org.