HR Management & Compliance, Learning & Development

Six Critical Steps to Take to Effectively and Professionally Terminate an Employee

If you’re like most HR professionals, you probably don’t enjoy terminating employees. In fact, you probably would prefer to avoid it altogether. However, sometimes it’s part of the job and there are those employees who simply need to be delivered the bad news.
Here are six steps to take to effectively and professionally terminate an employee.

Step 1. Make Sure You Offer Them a Real Chance to Improve

If you’re terminating employees because of their performance or behavior, be sure they are given adequate opportunities to improve first before terminating them. Were they provided with clear expectations regarding their responsibilities and roles from the beginning? Were they given time to rectify their performance or behavior as long as it wasn’t sincerely detrimental to others internal or external to your organization? Of course, there are some situations in which immediate termination is likely appropriate, for example, violence or theft.

Step 2. Gather a Consensus First, and Have Witnesses

You should always get feedback from other managers and other leaders to gather a consensus about an employee’s performance or grounds for termination before you terminate her or him. You want to keep your own biases in check and want to make sure your grounds for termination are legitimate, completely legal, and that you’ll have witnesses to back you up in case someone contests the act of termination.

Step 3. Don’t Take Them Off Guard

If you offer your employees adequate opportunities to improve their performance or behavior before you terminate them, it won’t be as shocking to them if and when you finally do. However, you should still be professional and set a meeting on their calendar when it’s time to break the bad news. Don’t just randomly show up to their cubicle and terminate them right then and there without ample warning, as you may get a very embarrassing and emotional reaction from them and others in the office.

Step 4. Do It Face-to-Face

Never terminate employees via e-mail or voicemail, as they could claim they never received the notice. And that also shows extreme unprofessionalism. Be prepared to break the news face-to-face when you set your meeting with the employee who is to be terminated.

Step 5. Be Clear, Direct, and Calm

Don’t beat around the bush and apologize or stroke the ego of the people you’re meeting with to terminate. Simply state that they are being terminated and when it’s effective. And expect for them to be emotional so that you can keep your own emotions in check. This may seem harsh, but you want to make sure your message is clear so they aren’t hoping they can earn their job back.. And you don’t want to raise your voice or yell, as that will only make you look unprofessional and increase the likelihood of lawsuits.

Step 6. Provide Objective Details for Termination

When terminating someone, don’t simply state, “You’re being let go.” You want to give objective details for your decision so he or she understands you’ve done your homework and have considered your decision with the utmost care. You’re not just willy-nilly terminating people because you want to do so. Not only is this information helpful in the instances of lawsuits and disgruntled employees but also, it will will solidify your business decision as a professional.
Follow the six steps above to effectively and professionally terminate an employee.

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