Things To Avoid When Letting Someone Go (infographic)

Letting someone go isn’t an easy decision to make, and if you get it wrong you could cause unnecessary harm, and even put your company at risk.

That’s why it’s really important to make sure that it is the right decision, and that your dismissal process is professional, efficient, and compassionate. Here’s some advice to help you minimise negative repercussions when parting ways with an employee.

Preparation is essential

If you are aware of persistent underperformance or misconduct from an employee, and you have exhausted other options, such as performance improvement plans and disciplinary procedures, then you probably have fair grounds for a dismissal. You should keep a record of any relevant issues or events to support your case, and discuss your plans with HR to make sure they are appropriate and in line with company policy and employment law.

Once you are certain that letting your employee go is the best thing to do, you should act promptly rather than letting things drag out unnecessarily. This is one of the most unpleasant aspects of being an employer or manager, but a fair and decisive action is necessary here. Procrastination will only cause more harm overall, and reflects badly on your leadership skills.

You need to make clear arrangements for the dismissal process. Avoid firing someone by email if at all possible, as it is impersonal and open to misinterpretation. Though uncomfortable, a face-to-face meeting will allow you to communicate clearly and empathetically with your employee. Meet earlier in the week to allow the employee time to adjust, and reduce weekend anxiety in your team.

Before you meet, you should prepare what you are going to say. You’ll need to give clear reasons for the dismissal, providing examples and evidence such as performance reviews, disciplinary actions, and notes on infractions and complaints. Try to anticipate any questions, and practise your responses. Remember to get any necessary paperwork ready, as well as information about paychecks, severance pay or unemployment benefits.

Stay calm and professional

When you meet with your employee to tell them you are letting them go, you need to be firm, but compassionate. You want to make sure that there is no room for misunderstanding what is happening, but you also need to remember that this will be a stressful and upsetting experience for the person who is losing their job. Your goal is to minimise confusion or hurt, and make sure there are no grounds for complaint against the dismissal process.

Having an HR representative present in the meeting can help to lessen the tension of a one-to-one interaction. They will be able to provide necessary support for your employee during this difficult time, and also help to make sure that you are following the correct procedure as discussed with them prior to the meeting. This is good for due diligence and accountability, and should be reassuring to you, too.

You should have made notes and prepared what you plan to say, so don’t be tempted to go off-script. Your employee deserves a clear explanation of why they are being let go, without excuses or irrelevant details. It’s fair to give reasons and examples, but don’t confront them with a long list of failures, as that may be hurtful and unnecessary. Be specific, but keep it brief and to the point.

If you stick to the plan you have prepared and practised, you will be less likely to get pulled into a discussion with your employee. You should be confident in your decision, and not be pressured to apologise or back down. Remember that the time for disciplinary action has passed, and there is no longer room for negotiation about this person’s position in your workplace.

However, being firm and resolute doesn’t mean you have to be hard-nosed. You are dealing with a person who may be feeling shocked, sad, and anxious about their future, so remember to be compassionate towards them. Just because things didn’t work out in this job, they may have potential elsewhere. If you can, discuss other jobs that you think they might be better suited to.

Take care to follow up

Once the dismissal meeting is over, you should be careful to tie up any loose ends and make sure that your workplace is safe and healthy from now on. That means tackling some necessary security measures, as well as communicating with your team and rebuilding trust and motivation in your staff.

When your former employee is leaving your workplace, assign someone sensitive to help them gather their things. They can offer moral support and sympathy, while also making sure that the process is quick and smooth, with minimal disruption or interference. Remove access to sensitive information and passwords as soon as possible to prevent a possible security breach, and check with IT about any data that may already have been acquired.

There’s no point in hiding what has happened from your other employees. Lack of communication can lead to confusion and anxiety, as well as speculation and gossip. This can have a serious effect on motivation and trust, so you should prioritise rebuilding morale with your team. Hold a team meeting to explain the situation and give people an opportunity to ask questions or air grievances.

Communicate clearly with your team about what led to your decision, and reassure them that their contribution is valued in your workplace. Let them know how their colleague’s departure might affect their workload, and about any new opportunities it has created. If you aim to provide a supportive, collaborative, and communicative working culture, hopefully you won’t face this situation again.

For more advice on how to avoid mistakes when letting people go, take a look at this useful infographic guide from HeadwayCapital.

15 Things You Should Never Do When Letting an Employee Go

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