How to Fire People and Not Look Like an Idiot

INC Magazine ran this post today, under the heading of “10 Worst Things to Say When You Fire Someone, but we thought the topic deserved some more attention, since several things were omitted.

1. Make sure you’ve got documentation for the firing, for violations of company policy, poor attendance, poor work, whatever. In a right to work state, all you have to say is ‘it didn’t work out, and we’re releasing you.’ If you happen to be among the unlucky 10% that has a union shop, then you’ve got to notify the union shop steward, and the replacement might be already in the hiring hall.

2. We would agree with some of the article, in that don’t compare employees, don’t imply it’s hard for you to fire (you get better with practice) and don’t beat around the bush with platitudes like’we’ve decided to make a change’.

3. Do have all your severance details worked out in advance, and in fact, you might even have the employee sign the severance agreement, especially if there is sensitive information involved, the release of which could damage your company. There may be a one-year non-compete involved, too (longer won’t stand up in court, as may the whole idea of a non-compete).

4. Don’t chintz on severance, even though you might be tempted if the firing transgression is big enough. Hand the severed employee his/her severance pay at the final meeting.

5. Escorting out of the building should be done where there are sensitive items on computers, or sensitive equipment that could be damaged by the departing employee. You might need to change locks on buildings, too, if the fired employee had keys.

6. Lastly, be prepared to be taken to your state Industrial Commission by disgruntled employees. You’ll likely lose, because these are pro-employee forums, but if you’ve done everything ‘by the policy manual’, you’ve at least got a chance not to owe any more money to the employee.

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