You have to admit, being the boss isn’t just a walk in the park. Every day, you’re faced with new challenges—problems that need solutions, solutions that need your final decision, and ensuring your staff are working their best, all that and more while staying calm and poised under pressure.
But no matter how calm you may look on the outside, when it’s time to fire one of your staff (for the right reasons), you will always feel awful inside—looking them in the eye and telling them they’re being laid off. As if being the boss isn’t already hard enough.
So, whether you’re firing people because of budget cuts, or your employee has been showing poor performance and misconduct even after giving them a number of chances to redeem themselves, if you have to fire someone from their position, the least you can do is to do it right—and ultimately avoid the chances of getting sued for mishandling the situation.
Of course you need to ask yourself, and the management, if this is the right decision to make, and not just terminate someone because of that heated argument you two had during the weekly meeting. Don’t let your emotions get to you. Remember, you’re taking away someone’s source of income that his or her family depends on. Never take this lightly.
Make sure that firing an employee is the last step in a careful, structured, and transparent process that has been thought of long before the actual firing. If the reason for termination is a series of poor performance, then there should be discussions, and necessary plans to help them improve. If it’s because of reorganization in the company, then you should follow a series of announcements, and fair warnings. If possible, don’t make it come as a surprise.
Make it short and sweet
I know, this sounds too good for something so bad to happen, but it’s true. There’s no point in letting the bad news linger by going into different directions during the “talk.” The best way to do this is to go straight to the point and say, “Juan, I’m sorry, but we have to let you go.” Explain the reasons but avoid going into the details of the grounds for termination, it might just start an argument. Also, if you followed the processes, Juan already knows why he’s being terminated. If they become defensive, just say, “I’ll be happy to talk to you about this, but you have to understand that nothing we say will change the decision.” Easier said than done, but there’s really no other way.
Don’t assume that your (now former) employee knows what’s going to happen after you tell him/her “You’re fired.” Some of them may have never experienced being laid off before, so be prepared to address how they’ll go about everything before they leave. Make sure things go smoothly as possible: When their last day is, what happens with their benefits, when they’ll get their last pay, etc. Get help from HR so you’ll know how to answer these things correctly.
Just listen, don’t react
Losing a job is a daunting experience, and you have to understand that your employee could be having mixed emotions after you spilled the beans. It’ll only go two ways: Either they accept the news calmly, or they burst out hidden frustrations and get mad. Do not argue with them. Let them vent and you just listen. If you’re sure about the decision, and you have all the documents to back it up, then an argument isn’t necessary. If you get caught in a heated argument, it opens up risks the company for legal issues if you speak without thinking. Just listen, and then direct them towards accepting the realities of the situation.
Announce the decision to the rest of the team
Once the damage is done, it’s time to let the team in on the news. Talk to them about the reasons, the process, and what’s going to happen after. More often than not, they will understand the decision, others, perhaps may have an unclear picture. Whatever the case, it’s best to be sensitive during the announcement, and then help them bring their focus back on work.
To know more about the rules and regulations on employee termination, please read the guidelines from Department of Labor and Employment.