How to Ready, Aim, Fire Someone (Part 1)

Pink slip “You do it.” “No, you do it.” If you’ve ever had the unenviable job of firing someone, you know what I’m talking about. It’s not easy taking away someone’s source of income. But you’ve got to keep in mind that it’s usually for the good of the company. Without naming names, I managed a company that, in the year before I started, went through more than 800 employees to fill 100 positions. I was able to reduce that number significantly, but that was the culture of the company, and there was no changing it. Churn and burn. There was only so much I could do. Talk about stressful.

Here are some tips on what you need to consider when the time comes to let an employee go…and not find yourself in a lawsuit. No promises, of course. This pertains to those who are at-will, and not under contract.

Feedback
Employee feedback“No surprises.” That’s always been my motto when it comes to firing an employee. If you’ve been consistently giving someone stellar reviews, raises and bonuses…you are definitely going to blindside them. Plain and simply, that is unacceptable. Of course, in this economic climate, downsizing has become common at all levels. Even the good ones, if they’re not bringing in revenue and easily placed elsewhere in the company, become an operating expense that all too often can no longer be afforded. Trust me, I’ve been on the wrong end of that scenario.

Written Warning
Performance reviewsSo back to the employee that you’ve been praising, in spite of a weak performance or one that’s declined over time – Do not let them go immediately. Give them an unscheduled performance review, and be honest. Call them into your office and discuss the situation. Maybe you can turn them around. Maybe not. Either way, you’ve got to document the poor performance. Give them a deadline for improvement. In no uncertain terms, make it clear that unless the changes are significant, they will be terminated. And call me paranoid, but always have a witness (another manager) in the room during reviews. I never want to be in a “your-word vs. their word” debate. That will get ugly.

Bottom line: Praise only when they deserve it, discipline when necessary, document everything, and let ’em go when they’re detrimental to the business.

If you have any questions or comments, or interested in a consultation,
please write them below or email me at Robert@RobertFinkelstein.com.

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