On Donald Trump’s reality show, he simply utters the words and the contestant says a polite “Thank you, Mr. Trump” before leaving. But if you’re a supervisor, you know that real-life terminations don’t often work like that.
There may be tears, accusations, and, in the very worst and rare cases, violence. But when it comes to how to terminate an employee, there are steps you can take to reduce the chances that the firing will descend into chaos, even if it’s under difficult circumstances:
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Learning how to terminate an employee is necessary for managers to be successful; it’s not a task that should be delegated to someone with no direct supervisory role over the employee. Ideally, the direct supervisor should terminate the worker.
Be Time Conscious
It’s true that certain situations, such as workplace violence, warrant on-the-spot dismissal. But in most cases management has the opportunity to schedule the termination meeting. Conventional how to terminate an employee wisdom often advises a supervisor to fire early in the day because the worker is likely to be less stressed and better able to cope with the situation. Firing early in the day also gives the terminated employee time to gather their things before the workplace closes.
No matter how you might personally feel about the worker being terminated, it’s important to maintain their privacy. For example, always hold the termination meeting in a private room or office where co-workers won’t overhear. Why? Because a co-worker audience might embarrass the person being fired and inflame them even further.
During the meeting, if possible, deliver the last paycheck as well as information about the expiration of benefits. If the worker needs to sign any paperwork, such as a benefits continuation document, take care of that as well.
A vaguely worded termination that’s preceded by small talk and jokes may agitate an already dissatisfied worker. Always be specific and candid regarding why their employment is being ended. But be careful not to overdo it; it’s not necessary to rehash every sin ever committed since the day he or she was hired.
It’s important for you to be cautious and thoughtful. One of the best management practices when you are in the process of terminating an employee is to have either HR if you have access to an HR expert, or another manager at the termination meeting, especially if the employee is potentially hostile or might twist words in the future. Remember, the purpose of the other company rep is to act as a witness—not to participate. You don’t want to leave the impression that you’re “ganging up” on the terminated worker.
In some situations, it might appropriate to offer to help the employee with some aspects of their job search. For example, consider identifying the worker’s talents and reviewing where they might be applied. You might also discuss what will be said about the person when a prospective employer calls to check references.
Learning how to terminate an employee due to workplace issues will not be your favorite part of the supervisory role. But it is necessary if you want to foster the department, the company, and your career. Start now so you’re prepared to handle this sometimes tricky process.
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