Well, we've come to the point in the First in HR series where it's time to talk about what to do when you have to let someone go. It's not an easy topic to tackle, in fact it's the hardest. Coming to terms with the fact that someone isn't a fit within your organization is rarely within HR's control, but often falls to HR or the hiring manager to implement.

Letting someone go is never an easy thing to do, but poor workers take a toll on everyone around them, and sometimes there are no other options. Whether this is your first time, or your 50th time firing a worker, there is always room for improvement, especially with such a sensitive subject. This is one thing that you should really get right. Not only are there feelings and livelihoods on the line, no one wants to spend time and money in court due to ignorance.

Layoffs are one thing, but firing should come as a surprise to no one. The manager or leader in question should have taken steps to warn the employee about their bad behavior, poor work, low productivity or other issues. This should be your first course of action, to ensure that proper protocol has been followed.

If it has and the worker fails to heed the warning or warnings (written or otherwise), then termination should proceed, particularly if other workers' productivity is suffering. If they are truly being fired for the reasons which the manager warned them about, the firing will be foreseen by all, including their co-workers. Warnings shouldn't be common knowledge, but it's never a secret when someone isn't pulling their weight in a team.

These warnings should be tangible and documented. Sometimes reasons and and expectations come into question, and those questions are more easily dismissed when you have some back up. Concrete, and if possible, quantitative goals should be discussed, along with a reasonable time frame in which to accomplish them. Performance reviews are a separate issue and warnings aren't necessarily (or at every company) a part of these proceedings. We recommend not mixing the two.

The firing should always be done in a private area. Publicly dismissing someone from their position is bad form, and can do a lot of damage to your employer brand and company culture. Plus, it's a real morale killer. On the other hand, firing someone over a nice dinner isn't how it should go down either. Take them aside, to a neutral space with a clear exit. Getting fired is tough and you never know how someone will react, so it's best to play it safe with all of these encounters. Speaking of which, there should always be a third party involved. Whether you (as HR or Recruiting) are the third party in question OR you are doing the firing and need to bring in someone in leadership who shares your views to assist, make sure that you are at all times safe and above suspectability.

Your delivery should firm but kind. While you're concentrating on an empathetic tone and delivery steer far away from anything that could be misleading. This isn't a warning, the decision has been made. Additionally, never make up a story to spare the employees feelings, this has a tendancy to come back and bite companies in the employer brand.

Keep this whole process short and sweet, that employee doesn't want to be in that room anymore than you do. Save your speeches for someone that is still getting paid. At this point, odds are that they don't want to hear what you have to say unless it involves a severance package. Simply address the warnings that were not heeded as the reason for the termination, and don't get involved in debate.

Before they leave, they should know exactly what they can expect from you in the way of a severance package, a final paycheck, career counseling or outplacement services. They should also be made aware of what will happen with their insurance benefits and unemployment options. And you should always give them the option to collect their things later at a scheduled time. Giving them time to calm down and collect their thoughts about this process is always best.

Lastly, while you're meeting with the employee, there should be someone in charge of changing their passwords and access levels. Security starts with hiring good people and having strong policies in place, but at this point you should do all that you can in the way of securing your information.

While firing is a difficult process, following the steps outlined here can make it manageable and secure. 

photo credit: TheeErin via photopin cc

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