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Why and How to Fire an Employee

Except for perhaps cartoon villains, I don’t think there is anybody who doesn’t think that the act of firing someone is completely awful. It’s awful for the person losing their source of income, and it’s awful for the person on the other side of the desk taking it away from them.

Growing up, my father owned a small business, and I remember the days he would come home and share with my mother that he had to let someone go. As a child, I couldn’t believe how he could do such a thing. He explained to me that as the business owner he was responsible for the success of the company, his own family, and the families of all of his employees. If one person was holding the business back, that wasn’t fair to all of the other employees and their families.

That, is unfortunately, an awful truth. As a small business owner you are responsible for the business and with that, the livelihoods of your employees. Which means, that at times, you need to make some tough choices.

We all know that the hiring process can be time consuming and expensive. The firing process may in someways be quicker, it is not any less tricky.

When Should You Fire Someone?

Before making the decision to fire an employee, make sure you know the guidelines. Are your employees at will employees? Or, are they working under a contract or with a collective bargaining unit? This will affect when, how, or if you can fire someone.

In an article for the Harvard Business Review, business experts, Jay Conger and Patty McCord discuss the tough choices surrounding letting an employee ago. Both Conger and McCord agree that the second the thought of firing someone starts creeping into your head it means that you are already on that road. McCord states, ““You know it in your gut sooner than your head can catch up.”

Though, an at will employee can be fired out of the blue (as long as it is not for discriminatory reasons), but it’s best for them, for you, and for the rest of the company if that is not how it is done.

When should you fire an employee?

Remember, when it comes to having a good team, it takes two to tango. Meaning, it takes both the effort of the boss and the employee. If an employee is not meeting expectations, review your own actions and behaviors first. Have you been clear about what you expect? Does the employee have the support, training, or materials that he or she needs? Have you been available for questions or concerns?

If, you feel confident that you held up your end of the bargain as the boss, then you can move forward. But, we still don’t recommend jumping right to “you’re fired.”

Schedule a meeting and let the employee know that as of now he or she is not quite working at the level that you expect and offer an opportunity for the employee to improve. In regard to this meeting, Cliff Ennico, for Entrepreneur, advises, “Prepare a “memo to the file” detailing what you told the employee.”

If, after this, the employee is still not improving, it may be time to take action. Though it may be difficult, as a small business owner you need to think about what is best for the business and for the rest of the employees.

How to Fire Someone

How to fire an employee

Though television shows and movies may often show bosses yelling “you’re fired” at an employee in the middle of the office, I’m sure you know that’s not actually the best way to do it. Here are a few suggestions for making sure that the firing process goes and calmly and smoothly as possible:

Make sure there is someone else in the room with you as a witness.

Pull in someone from HR if you have a human resources department, or bring in your second in command. Just, don’t be alone in the room with someone when you fire them. You do not want to increase your liability of being sued.

Don’t drag it out

Have the conversation be clear and quick. Dragging it out will be painful for all involved.

Do not fire someone on a Friday

A weekend at home can give an upset employee too much time to brew leading to an unwanted confrontation on Monday.

Have the employee leave immediately

Most likely the employee will not want to hang around anyway, but you don’t want to risk the person you just fired gossiping, complaining, and creating unrest amongst the rest of the team.

In regard to collecting personal belongings you can either escort the employee to his or her workspace, or you can offer for them to come back during lunch or after the regular workday if they (or you) do not want interactions with other employees. Either way, be sure to supervise the gathering of personal effects to ensure that the employee does not take company property or delete any digital data.

Though letting an employee go is always awful. Hopefully following this advice will make the process as painless as possible. Looking for more advice for your small business? Contact us at Lumen Advisory and Finance!