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Tactful Termination: How to fire an employee

How to terminate an employee with tact.

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You should take as much time planning a layoff, position elimination or termination as it took for you to find, interview, hire and train that person.

When contemplating firing or laying off employees, carefully review the documentation in the personnel files. You should consult with legal counsel and share with them your files, intentions and plan to offer assistance to the individual to bridge the gap of unemployment before they find work. A good personnel lawyer could then advise you as to whether a lawsuit is likely to be in your future or not.

Once you are set to execute your plan, there are several procedures that should be followed to minimize the chance of problems. First, the termination decision should be communicated in person to the employee-not in a letter, email or phone call. The face-to-face meeting not only allows for communication of the decision, but also provides an opportunity to observe the employee’s reaction. If possible, two employer representatives should be present during the meeting in order to ensure there is a witness to the conversation. Optimally, one of these company representatives would be a supervisor and/or someone of authority with whom the employee feels comfortable. The meeting should be documented immediately after its conclusion.

Deliver the bad news with as much diplomacy, respect and sympathy as possible, but withhold any positive comments about the employee’s performance, regardless of the reason for the termination. The worker should simply be informed of the decision and the general basis for the decision. The reason communicated to the employee should not be conditional, limiting or overly specific, as this may impact defense of such action in any future legal proceeding. Likewise, it is not wise to engage in a debate or detailed discussion with the employee as to the reason for the termination. Simply communicate the decision and focus on the future. If the employee gets up to leave or requests to end the meeting before you’ve finished explaining the next steps, it should be permitted. Forcing an employee to remain in the room can constitute false imprisonment and could add to any other claims against the company.

-Vince DiCecco, Your Personal Business Trainer

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