Firing an Employee - When and How to Do It

Terminating a person’s employment is a hard task for any manager; the decision to sack someone can be difficult to make, and the conversation itself emotionally taxing to have.

There are a wealth of reasons why you, as an employer, may be considering the dismissal of an employee from their job, and these should be navigated with care to ensure that the final call made is in the best interests of the team and the company as a whole.

Even once the decision has been made to fire someone, your duties are not complete until you have broken the news to the employee in question.

Hard as it may be, dismissing staff is an inevitable aspect of people management, so knowing how to handle these situations is key to effective leadership and your job as an employer.

In this blog, we will lay out how to identify when the time has come for the termination of a contract and how to proceed in an appropriate way. 

When to dismiss

Reason

There are a handful of scenarios in which the question of dismissal can be reasonably black and white. In the case of redundancy, an employer may not have an option due to the company simply closing down.

To give another example, an employee may have clearly or repeatedly violated company policy regarding absence or harassment, making it obvious that dismissing them for misconduct is the right thing to do. 

However, it can be much trickier for a manager to make a judgement based on someone’s capability rather than outright misconduct. An employee’s performance might be measured in terms of productivity or quality of work, and if these are unsatisfactory, it is probably the right time for you, as their superior, to take stock.

Reflecting on whether you would choose to hire this person out of choice, based on their current performance, is a good place to start.

Opportunity for growth

Once you have concluded that the employee is underperforming to such an extent that you would not electively place them in that role, it is crucial to ascertain why so that you can give them a chance to do better before you terminate their employment.

Ask yourself whether they have received adequate training and whether you have made the company’s expectations clear. If the answer is no, then the responsibility for their poor performance likely lies with you and rectifying the issue through further training may be quite straightforward. 

Should the employee not be fulfilling their duties despite being sufficiently trained, it is important to have a frank discussion with them in which you make clear that they are not meeting the expectations of their employment.

During this conversation, the employee should be alerted to the fact that their work will be under review going forwards, and you can then work together to set goals for their development. This offers them an opportunity to improve and makes firing them a last resort. 

Throughout your performance reviews and meetings with the employee, it is paramount that you keep a record of the warnings given. That way, if their work fails to improve, any HR professionals involved in the dismissal process can see that the communication has been transparent and that you have a fair reason for termination of their contract.

Additionally, should HR believe that a disciplinary is more appropriate than a dismissal, they can ensure that the proper protocol is followed and that consistency is maintained compared to previous similar situations.

Evaluation

Unfortunately, even after such steps are taken to give an employee a second chance, they sometimes still do not deliver, and it is at this point that you must evaluate whether firing them from their job is the right decision.

Make sure you speak with your team to double-check what effect the person has within the workforce, but avoid naming the individual or using leading questions as this can lead to confirmation bias. In answering open questions, the other team members will make it evident if a specific person is negatively impacting company morale or not contributing to the team’s success, helping you reach an unbiased decision based on a fair reason.

 

How to dismiss 

Preparation

Before speaking directly to the individual whose contract of employment you are terminating, you should consult with the HR department.

Firstly, this is because having them oversee the dismissal can make sure that the right procedure is followed, but on a more personal level, this is because they may be able to highlight important information regarding the employee’s circumstances. For example, should HR be aware that the person has recently experienced a bereavement and is attending the funeral on Thursday, it would be insensitive to terminate their employment on Friday.

Being dismissed can be an extremely traumatic and stressful experience for many people, so understanding somebody’s extenuating circumstances and handling the situation compassionately should be a priority for employers.

At this stage, it is also a good idea to hand over your proof of the opportunities you gave the employee. With documented evidence of the behaviour and warnings leading up to the decision, HR will be well prepared in the (relatively unlikely) event that the fired individual takes legal action or claims they were dismissed on grounds of discrimination or though any other form of unfair dismissal. 

Delivery 

For most managers, having the difficult conversation and informing the person of the termination of their employment is the toughest part. Yet, while it is important to deliver the news humanely, it should be done in a direct manner. Begin by getting straight to the point and letting them know that the time has come for their employment's termination, then proceed with an explanation and be honest about your reasoning.

If you believe that the employee has abilities or talents which are just a better fit elsewhere, offering to provide a reference for their future job applications might help to soften the blow.

It is good practice to follow up with the employee in writing with a termination letter confirming what was discussed in the meeting. This will make the decision official, allowing them to proceed with HR in the necessary way to take the next steps (sorting out unused paid leave, for example).

Ultimately, dealing with the dismissal swiftly and efficiently in this way is the most beneficial to the company’s performance. 

Plan of action

Lastly, remember to look ahead to the future. Your team will be temporarily missing one member and clarity will be needed, so explain the dismissal to them but remember to keep the details confidential.

Also, some redistribution of the workload will inevitably be needed. Talk to the team to find out how you can best manage their needs while you get on with finding a new hire!

 

 

It is clear that when an employer terminates a job contract, it should be done for an evidenced lack of capability (or other substantial reasons), and it is of paramount importance to follow proper procedure in order for the dismissed employee to not claim unfair dismissal.

Streamlining your employee management, HR relationships and recruitment process are all vital to the effective dismissal and replacement of staff members. Book a demo to see first-hand how XCD’s software can help your company, or get in touch if you have any further queries.

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