November 13, 2013 9:13 PM
It’s time to terminate an employee. Hopefully you’ve developed and followed your company guidelines of progressive discipline. Was there an investigation? Did you give yearly evaluations, coach the employee about under-performance issues? Or, maybe the infraction is so severe that immediate termination is called for.
Now what do you do?
- Keep Your Cool – Don’t spring the news suddenly or berate the employee
- Avoid Surprises – The employee shouldn’t be completely surprised. Poor performance review is “for-cause” if you document it.
- Watch What You Say and How You Say It – The employee will remember your words in the worst possible light. Avoid making discriminatory statements and be cautious during the termination meeting. Don’t be a jerk. Make sure it’s done in person and in private and, when possible, with an appropriate witness in attendance.
- But ….Don’t be Too Kind – Even if you feel like softening the blow, don’t express your feelings in the wrong way. Tell the real reason. For example, if performance was substandard, say so. And don’t apologize for the employee’s failure to perform. If you feel like it’s your fault, you didn’t do enough coaching prior to the termination, and the termination may be premature.
- Keep Quiet – Don’t discuss the reasons with other employees. Not only does it open you up to a lawsuit, but it damages your relationship with your other employees, who expect you to keep their private issues private.
- Final Pay - Pay the employee, in full, for all time worked and benefits accrued, at the termination meeting. Although by statute you have the earlier of three days or the next pay cycle, to pay the terminated employee, have the final check ready to hand over at the end of the termination. If the employee has company property, retrieve it immediately, even if it means giving the employee a ride home to get it. Withholding pay under these circumstances is very risky.
- If you are concerned about any aspect of the termination, make sure you have consulted your attorney or HR advisor ahead of time.