The first rule in the art of people management is not only true, it’s kind of catchy: “Hire Slow, Fire Fast.” It is virtually impossible to write a post about firing employees without that obligatory toast. The hiring process must be comprehensive, a multi-decision-making endeavor, but that is another post or series of posts. Here, we’ll talk about the gentle art of employee dismissals. Not the favorite subject of any real employer which makes it all the more important to discuss regularly because we all know how simple it can be to tuck your head firmly into the sand and pretend the worst employee experience in the world is NOT happening directly under your entrepreneurial nose.
Now that we understand a little about hiring, the need to fire frequently is hopefully mitigated by your attention to getting it right. But there will always be employees to come along that do not mesh with your firm. It’s gonna’ happen. Getting it right is your job. How you manage this will set the stage for how your staff views not only you, but your business.
Here are 7 MUSTS to have a healthy “conscious uncoupling” with the staff member that must go:
- Documentation – Keep the necessary documentation of the staff interactions and files. They are vital to your history. Annually review your employee handbook, keep it current and do what you say you are going to do, follow your policies. When others do not, document it.
- While you are getting your ducks in a row, maintain gracious, professional interactions with the targeted staff.
- Never discuss human resource situations with any staff who are NOT directly responsible for leadership, management and decisions that hinge on the problem staff. There are no exceptions to this; anything other than this is gossip and could be dangerous to the company.
- Follow your local and state rules for letting someone go. Have the staff person’s final check prepared and ready before you even meet with the person who will be going and preserve as much dignity as possible for that person. Naturally, if it is an acute, serious situation, you may have little time to check these off, but even as they are cleaning out their desks and turning in their company assets, be sure to behave professionally.
- Keep the conversation brief and do not allow the situation to get out of hand by engaging in “he said, she said” communications or by allowing the staff person to get into explanations, etc.
- Move beyond the situation quickly with a plan to cover responsibilities and hold a brief staff meeting to clear the air by announcing the absence of the staff person as he or she is no longer with the firm; and point out what is going to happen to cover the absence responsibilities.
- Review the situation from beginning until end to determine any gaps in your employee handbook or manual. Offer improvements to your leadership team to add if there are procedures that might have staved off the employment issues leading to the dismissal.
Your greatest resource in your firm is your staff. When you hire, be sure to invest time and energy in hiring correctly to avoid having to remove staff who are either not the right fit, performing poorly or who have begun new behaviors that will not work for whatever reason. If your team knows how important they are to the mission and if they recognize you have taken time to put human resource infrastructure in place, they will not push the envelope nearly as much as if they feel the leadership is not ever paying attention or does not care.
When you demonstrate value in human resources, it is noticed. What’s more, when you model the behavior you are seeking from your staff, implementing regular training, documenting new changes and carefully hiring, growth and productivity become the result. And when it doesn’t, you have the procedure in place to simply eradicate the problem.