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What to do–always–before you fire someone

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in Firing,Human Resources

It's hard, but necessary, to terminate employees who commit misdeeds or who just aren't performing, because they keep everyone else from perform­ing as well. But it's equally necessary to make sure that you approach each potential termination systematically and fairly, to stay out of legal danger and to establish a positive workplace culture. Here are the steps to take:

Lay out the facts and the conse­quences. If you're ready to fire some­one, you should be absolutely sure that the employee knows why. Meet with the employee in private, go over the rules and policies at issue, and pro­vide your evidence that they've been broken. This applies whether you're talking about a flagrant act of miscon­duct (such as stealing) or an ongoing pattern of substandard performance.

Provide an opportunity to be heard. It's often advisable to not expect the employee to respond imme­diately to your charges. Set a separate time and place for the employee to present his or her case and for you to elaborate on yours. In union work­places, the worker has a right to be joined at this interview by a union representative. You should also con­sider including a neutral third party, such as a fellow manager, to observe and record.

Weigh the consequences care­fully. Again, you shouldn't decide immediately to terminate an employ­ee, but you shouldn't wait a long time either. Even when a case appears clear-cut, it's important to take care if you approach the matter with care if you want to convince fellow employ­ees, or a court, that your discipline isn't arbitrary or inconsistent.

Make a rational decision. In other words, the punishment should fit the transgression. It's not depen­dent on how valuable the employee is, or how bad the incident makes you or the enterprise look, or how serious the outcome of the misdeed was. Allowing such subjective fac­tors to influence your decisions will cause more long-term damage than it resolves. It undercuts your attempts to create a culture of fairness, and it gives aggrieved employees extra ammuni­tion in court.

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