Terminating employees with grace and respect

On Behalf of | Jul 25, 2023 | Employment Law for Employers

Running a business involves many challenges and one of those is terminating employees. Good employees are vital to the success of your business and although you may provide proper training and treat them well, sometimes certain employees are just not a good fit.

Nobody likes delivering bad news. However, you are likely to eventually find yourself in a situation where you need to terminate an employee and it is important to do it properly.

Reasons for termination

There is never a perfect way to terminate an employee, but before you do, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. It is illegal to fire employees for reasons such as their ethnicity, immigration status or gender.

You also cannot terminate an employee out of retaliation because they did something such as file a complaint against the business or submit a claim for workers’ compensation.

There are many valid reasons for terminating an employee, including poor work performance or excessive absences. They might also be coming to work intoxicated or harassing other employees.

Picking the right time

One of the biggest challenges you may experience is knowing when the right time is to terminate the employee. There is no right answer to this question as it depends on your specific situation.

Before deciding to terminate, consider giving the employee a chance to improve. Talk to them about the problem and offer potential solutions and an opportunity for them to correct it. This will also prevent the termination from coming as a surprise to the employee.

If it is clear the situation is not going to improve and termination is in everyone’s best interest, you may decide the time to terminate the employee has come.

In that case, be prepared. Have all documentation related to the reasons for termination ready and think about what you are going to say before talking with the employee.

Lack of preparation can lead to an awkward situation that could even result in legal action. Although the employee is likely not going to walk away happy, they will hopefully feel that they were treated with respect and understanding.

Choosing the right location

Have the meeting in the appropriate time and place. Again, this will depend on your situation, but generally times when your business is not busy are best. Choose a quiet, open space, such as a conference room, for the discussion.

Consider having someone else there with you. This has a couple of different benefits. You will have someone there to back up your version of what happened and what was said if the employee later accuses you of something illegal or unethical. Additionally, having another person there can protect you if the employee becomes disruptive or violent.

When talking with your employee, do not make the conversation personal. Focus on their work, not them as a person.

Do not be vague. Be detailed and specific when discussing the situation and their work. Use examples of times they have failed to meet workplace expectations.

Document everything

Back everything you say up with documentation. Have any business policies or procedures ready, including disciplinary policies and documentation showing exactly how the employee has violated the policies.

If your disciplinary policies require written warnings before termination, have copies of these written warnings to show the employee you have complied with your policy.

When the conversation is over and it is time for the employee to leave, have someone escort them out. Continue to treat them with respect throughout the process.

Terminating someone is never easy, but these tips can hopefully make the experience easier for both of you.