How to Terminate an Employee with Honor

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Terminating an employee is one of the most difficult and unpleasant things you may have to do as an HR representative or manager at your company. While you strive to hire the best fits for certain roles, you can’t always predict how someone will behave once they’ve been given a position. Unfortunately, termination is sometimes your best option.

No matter what’s happened to lead to termination, it’s also important to maintain a sense of fairness and honor throughout the process. Termination can be stressful, embarrassing, and devastating. It’s important to respect the employee, yourself, and your company throughout the process. Let’s explore how to terminate someone with honor.

Know why you’re terminating an employee

It may seem obvious, but you should have a clear-cut reason for terminating an employee, and you should be able to describe it in a way that’s simple to understand. Long before termination begins, keep this reasoning in mind throughout your daily interactions with this employee and let it guide you in your attempts to rectify their behavior.

What to do before terminating an employee

The termination process starts (and hopefully ends) long before an actual firing takes place. If you notice that an employee is not fulfilling their job duties in a satisfactory way, there are early steps you can take to help prevent further problems.

Document everything in writing

Documentation is important even for satisfactory employees. During the hiring process, you should document orientation procedures, explain policies, and have your employee sign an agreement saying they’ve read and understood your policies. This early step will be useful if problems arise. If you do so for all employees, you’ll be protecting yourself in the instance that the fired employee claims to have been treated differently than others.

When problems arise, take note of them. Capture relevant screenshots, save emails, and make note of and date verbal incidents. As you take actions to rectify the situation and talk to your employee about issues, make notes of what you say and how they respond. 

Make sure there’s been understanding on both sides

In some cases, employees are confused about the expectations of their position. While you can help prevent this with a clear job description and a thorough onboarding and orientation process, things sometimes slip through the cracks.

One of the first steps you can take in rectifying poor performance is to reference relevant parts of the company’s policies and job description when discussing problems with your employee. This will give the employee the chance to make sure they understand why their performance isn’t meeting expectations. If you followed our documentation advice, they will also have signed off on a written agreement to these terms.

Try to coach your employee into improvement

Cutting your losses may seem tempting when you’re frustrated, but it’s always better to try to fix an employee’s behavior than to fire them and hire someone new. A 2016 study from the Society for Human Resource Management found that the average cost of replacing an employee is $4,129, and it takes an average of 42 days to get a position filled.

In addition to the monetary costs associated with firing and rehiring, the process takes an emotional toll on everyone involved. It’s better to show compassion to your employee, try to understand why they’re performing poorly, and show them a clear path to doing better work. Depending on their role, you might be able to do this yourself. If not, finding someone to help them in their department or with their skillset is worth the effort. 

Start with warnings

Firing an employee should never come as a surprise. It’s best for you and your employee if they are given written and verbal warnings about their poor performance. If they still fail to change their behavior after being warned repeatedly, you can be more confident in your decision.

How to fire an employee

Unfortunately, it’s come to this.  You’ve done all you can to fix a problem, and now you’ve decided to cut your losses. It can be hard to predict how the termination process will go, but there are some steps you can take to help it go smoothly.

Prepare your documentation

Before you call for a termination meeting, gather all relevant documentation, preferably in a physical folder or packet. It should include everything from the employee’s  signed onboarding paperwork to written warnings and steps taken to rectify behavior.

If the employee has questions or concerns about their termination, you’ll have everything you need on hand to address them. If they make false claims, you can refute them. Ultimately, having everything available will make the process go more smoothly no matter what.

Call for a semi-private meeting at the end of a work day

Choose a neutral location for your termination meeting. Don’t do it in your office or their workspace to avoid a lopsided or exaggerated power dynamic. It’s best to make the meeting as private as possible for the sake of the employee’s discretion, but having a witness is helpful. If you aren’t in HR at your company, your HR representative is the best choice. They can help ensure the meeting is compassionate, fair, and professional.

There are varying opinions on the best time of day for a termination meeting, but we recommend doing it at the end of the day. This gives your employee the chance to leave with the appearance of normality if they choose to. It also takes into account that their transportation situation might leave them stranded until the late afternoon.

Make a list of everything you need to say

A termination meeting should be succinct and simple, but it can get sidetracked easily. Your witness can help with this, but you should also prepare a checklist that lines out everything you want and need to say.

Make sure communication isn’t one-sided

When preparing your checklist, make sure you leave time to let your employee say anything they need to say. They’ll likely have questions and concerns that you don’t anticipate, so a checklist that doesn’t leave room for their input can feel one-sided and unfair. It’s important that your employee feels respected and listened to. Even if what they say doesn’t change the inevitable, they should be heard.

End things on a respectful note

Do what you can to help your employee retain their dignity. Unless you are firing your employee for particularly awful behavior, thank them for their time and effort in the company, and tell them you’re sorry things didn’t work out. If you can, offer to provide them with a letter of recommendation to help them find their next job.

If you can think of a job that might work better for their skillset, tell them. You might also offer some advice as to how they can thrive better in their next position. Regardless, try to end things on the most positive note you can.

Support After the Termination

While you are under no obligation to care for an employee post-termination, there are still things you can do. One great advantage of engaging a third party like CCA is that they can help you to continue to care for the former employee. A chaplain can provide a partnership of care even after they are terminated. 

Let CCA support your team

Sometimes, an employee’s poor job performance can be linked to personal problems you may not be aware of. A little help and care might be just what they need to do better in the workplace. However, as a manager or HR representative, finding the right balance of respect, compassion, and professionalism can be hard. That’s why Corporate Chaplains of America offers 24/7 chaplain services to you and your team, so everyone gets the individual support and care they need.

Contact Corporate Chaplains of America today to learn more about what we can do for you.

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