Paper Trails

What are the top tips for terminating employees?

Unfortunately, not all employees are perfect.  There comes a time for almost all businesses when they must terminate an employee for a variety of reasons.  Often, these conversations can be uncomfortable and difficult.  Here are some of the tops tips when it comes to terminating employees.

What are the top tips for terminating employees?

Most managers and business owners do not enjoy firing an employee.  Even if the employee knows it is coming, it can be a challenging scenario.  Previously, we have discussed some mistakes to avoid during these termination meetings here.  Some other tips to remember when going through this process include:

Offer opportunities for improvement beforehand

While this tip does not directly correlate with termination, should your decision be heading that way with an employee, think about offering opportunities for the employee to improve in advance of termination.  This is only possible if the termination will be a result of poor performance as opposed to an act of discrimination or conflict in the workplace.

Have a series of performance reviews and consider an performance improvement plan for the employee to improve their results.  Give them opportunities to explain why their performance is suffering.  Maybe it is a result of improper training or an issue in their personal lives.  This process can have a positive impact and potentially allow you to avoid firing the employee altogether.

Be clear and concise

This is not a time for negotiation.  You have done your due diligence and have made your final decision to end the employer employee relationship.  Provide your reasons for termination, and the steps you have taken along the way to lead to this decision, to the employee in a direct, but respectful, manner.  Make sure to hold the meeting in a private location as to not embarrass the employee.  Finally, always have a witness to help run and document the meeting.

Documentation and paperwork

Make sure to keep proper documentation of all actions of the termination process.  This includes any actions taken leading up to, and during, the actual termination meeting.  This documentation will be your supporting evidence that you handled the termination in a legal manner.

After the termination has happened, be sure to fill out and file the appropriate paperwork with the employee and your HR department.  Final paperwork can include the termination letter, final paycheck, nondisclosure agreements, and any benefit information.  Finally, be sure to collect any company assets from the employee including laptops, cell phones, building keys, and other company equipment.

Know your labor requirements

Another key consideration when it comes to terminating an employee is to know what you as the employer is responsible for.  First off, be sure not to discriminate against an employee of a protected class when making the decision to terminate.  After the termination has been completed, there are also some laws to know about.  For example, Maine businesses must pay out any unused, accrued vacation time to their employees upon cessation of employment.  This must be paid out no later than the employee’s next scheduled payday even if they are terminated.

Another law requires those businesses with more than 100 employees in the preceding 12 month period to offer severance pay to affected employees should their facility close, relocate, or experience mass layoffs.  While this is not directly related to terminating one employee, it is to be considered if your business closes or layoffs a large number of employees, and you must have these meetings with those employees.

Consider what to do after the termination

There are a few things to do after you terminate an employee.

  1. Be transparent with your staff on why the employee was terminated.  Do not pretend like it did not happen or give false reasons for the firing.  This will only lead to mistrust among employees and managers.
  2. Talk with your other employees and provide clear expectations of work place behavior and performance.  Review your employee handbook with them and have meetings with them privately to reinforce your expectations.
  3. Post the open position.  In the short term, you may be able to get away with current employees picking up the slack and covering the workload of the terminated employee.  But, be carefully not to cause burnout among your staff and attempt to fill the position as quickly as possible.