Oh, that Donald Trump. He's made “You're Fired!” a household phrase. Maybe some of that will trickle down. You can't be in business very long without needing to fire someone. Unfortunately, none of us mortals do it with such vigor and enthusiasm.
Most of us are sloppy hirers and terrible, procrastinating firers. Needless to say, these two traits spell chaos in a small company, where every position is a key one.
So if we can't be enthusiastic firers, maybe we can at least be competent.
What are some of the issues that hold us back?
- We know too much about the hardships of the employee's life and realize this may be one more blow to their self-esteem and financial security.
- We hate to hire. So we watch for that occasional tiny glimmer that the person we need to fire may truly have the motivation or the skills or the attitude to handle the job effectively so that we can avoid finding their replacement.
- We blame ourselves for not spending enough time coaching them. Maybe the problem is that we haven't really given them a chance.
- We hate or fear confrontation. What if they blow up during the meeting? What if they demand detailed justification for our action?
- The employee in question is related to us or related to another valued employee, making for a very sticky situation.
Get to It
So let's assume we know what we need to do. We need to free up their future (and ours) by acknowledging they do not fit the position and the company's needs. It is time to fire, terminate, dismiss.
Here are some tips.
- Prepare carefully for your meeting. Consult your attorney to be sure all your legal ducks are in a row. Hopefully you have been writing up infractions and counseling sessions and putting a record of them in the employee's file. Having documentation of performance issues is important.
- Script what you plan to say and say only that. Give the true reasons for the dismissal but state them in terms of the business's needs. Within reason, let the employee save face — but don't get drawn into revisiting your decision or arguing your case. You may be angry, but stay very businesslike in this meeting. Speak slowly and softly. If there are tears, stay quiet until they subside.
- Ask the person to return their key, any credit cards, gas cards, and any communication equipment or company possessions immediately. You will want to assess whether you should change door locks, computer passwords, and take any other security steps.
- Experts advise asking the employee to leave the premises immediately. You will want to have boxes on hand so they can remove their possessions.
A friend who recently had to fire someone felt he could not live with this advice and gave the employee the choice to remain under certain rules for up to two weeks. Ultimately the fired employee left after a week, finding the situation too difficult. This is definitely a gray area.
Hire Right to Avoid FiringThe point is that it is nasty and nobody (but the Donald) likes to fire anyone. However, the health of your company rests on the quality of your team.
Having to go through this difficult situation may even convince you that prevention — through more careful hiring —may be just the road you need to take. After all, wasn't that the point of all of Trump's firings?
—Linda Case, CRA, is founder of Remodelers Advantage Inc. in Fulton, Md., a company providing business solutions through a network of experts and peers. (301) 490-5620; email@example.com; www.remodelersadvantage.com.