The Advisor’s Corner – Is there a right way to FIRE an employee?

Is there a right way to FIRE an employee?Question:

Is there a right way to FIRE an employee?

StrategyDriven Response: (by Roxi Hewertson, StrategyDriven Principal Contributor)

Unfortunately, on average, we still have a 50 percent or more failure rate in hiring. This means we are as likely as not going to find ourselves in this unpleasant situation.

Aside from legal, union, or other contractual considerations that you must take into account, there are 5 KEY ACTIONS that will help keep you out of a heap of trouble:

  • Be Truthful – Employees should know exactly why they are being released from their job. Tell the truth. Most good employers have due process procedures and policies that need to be honored and communicated. Don’t leave the person to make assumptions, create more resentment than is necessary, or increase the odds of creating bad will. Remember, poor performance is poor performance, gross misconduct is gross misconduct, and a layoff is a layoff. So what is it and why?
  • Be Fair – This is a baseline rule. Fairness is a fundamental human expectation, at least in this country. It’s also a major factor in how the employee and others on your team feel when he or she exits the organization. Was the employee treated fairly? If you did everything you should have done to help this person be successful, and they didn’t cut it, then sleep easy. If you have been compassionate in your layoff package, then sleep easy. If not, then you have more work to do before you go to sleep.
  • Be Clear – Whenever possible, employees should have had a discussion with you in which they either hear 1) their job is on the line due to performance and exactly why, or 2) if it’s downsizing, be clear about that. If the termination is due to gross misconduct like stealing, tell it like it is. Get to the point, then stand up, offer your hand, wish them well, and walk them to the door. If the employee becomes despondent and is crying or is in a difficult emotional state, give them time to get themselves together; don’t fill this time with conversation about the decision. Just be kind, be human.
  • Be Respectful – Being fair is essential, as we’ve already noted. You can be fair and not be respectful. Being respectful is not only the right thing to do; it is the smart thing to do. Regardless of the circumstances leading to the termination, be professional and courteous. This is not a time to say that you told them so, or how much better things will be without them. Nor is it the time to make yourself feel better about your decision by belittling them or minimizing their contributions. Have your meeting at a time during which the employee will have little or no exposure to their colleagues and avoid having them led out of the building during business hours. Being terminated is a terrible experience, even when it is fair, done respectfully, and deserved. Always take the high road.
  • Be Smart – There are emotional aspects of the termination discussion and there are other factors to consider. Might this employee become volatile? Do you need security precautions? Should HR be present in the room? Do you have your exit checklist – e.g. keys, access, passwords, equipment, credit cards, etcetera? Your organization needs a solid termination process to follow to keep everyone out of legal and any other kind of trouble.

At the end of the day, it’s the emotions that wear you down. You should not fire someone on your own. Enlist HR, a lawyer, or other team members to help you stay clear and focused. It is important to feel what you feel and acknowledge those feelings. We’re all human. It is just as important to make sure you do not let your feelings about one person or the anticipated pain of the firing conversation get in the way of doing what is right for everyone else.

About the Author

Leadership authority Roxana (Roxi) Hewertson is a no-nonsense business veteran revered for her nuts-and-bolts, tell-it-like-it-is approach and practical, out-of-the-box insights that help both emerging and expert managers, executives and owners boost quantifiable job performance in various mission critical facets of business. Through, Roxi — “the Dear Abby of Leadership” — imparts invaluable free advice to managers and leaders at all levels, from the bullpen to the boardroom, to help them solve problems, become more effective and realize a higher measure of business and career success.

The StrategyDriven website was created to provide members of our community with insights to the actions that help create the shared vision, focus, and commitment needed to improve organizational alignment and accountability for the achievement of superior results. We look forward to answering your strategic planning and tactical business execution questions. Please email your questions to [email protected].

Fire the Slugs! And Other Great, No-Nonsense Ways to Retain Your Best People

StrategyDriven Organizational Accountability ArticleThere isn’t an organization anywhere that doesn’t have a problem with some type of personnel turnover problems. Depending on the study you look at, the impact of turnover ranges from three months of salary for a low level employee who leaves to as high as 400 percent of the annual salary of an upper-level person who leaves.

It’s doesn’t have to be all bad. There’s good turnover and bad turnover.

Firing a non-performer is good turnover. When a top performer leaves to go elsewhere and leaves your organization with a huge void, that’s bad turnover. It can affect the performance of the whole organization.

If you are going to maximize your organization’s performance you have to make a conscious, binding top-down management decision and commitment to develop a no nonsense approach to retention. The following are several must-do actions items for retaining the high-value human assets you’ve worked so hard to acquire:

  1. Start at the top! Assess your supervisory and management team! Seventy percent of the people say that the worst thing about their job is the boss. Find out what’s wrong and fix it! Identify the prima donnas and micromanaging control freaks, the whiners, complainers, and blamers. Get them basic supervisory training and improve their performance continuously. If you are the boss, take ownership!
  2. Clean Up the House! Identify the non-performers. Identify the poor managers and supervisors. If they do not respond to training and show significant improvement, remove them from an influential role and replace them with someone that does what is truly desired and required for the role and position they are in.
  3. Manage Visibly! Get out of the ivory tower. Begin each day by walking around. Stroll around the floor several times a day. Meet the customers, talk with employees, visit with the supervisors, greet the vendors, help the delivery trucks load and unload. Get out of your office. Let people know you are there and that you care. The point here is that you set lead by example. If they like you they are less likely to leave you. Visibility drives retention.
  4. Care About Your People! If you don’t really care about your people, your business is doomed. Caring is the reason why people stay. Get to know your people. Learn what each person likes and enjoys. Listen to them and learn about their interests, families, and hobbies. Protect your people from harm and from others in your organization. People are loyal to those who care about them and care for them.
  5. Keep your door open 80% of the time. Let your people know you are accessible to them. Avoid telling people to make an appointment or come back later. Make sure the time you do spend with your people is quality time.
  6. Focus on Employee Assistance Actively. Sit down with the other managers in your organization and identify the problems that are faced by people in your workforce. Develop innovative ideas and deploy specific new plans to provide employees with more flexibility in their work, support for their common needs, and help for dealing with personal issues that impact their life.
  7. Treat Everyone with Respect Always! Every leader and manager and supervisor must set the standard that respectful behavior and sincere open appreciation are expected with no exceptions! Investigate and take immediate action for all non-respectful behavior incidents. Have the managers and supervisors bring food to be shared on a regular basis! Break bread with your people regularly instead of forcing people to eat baloney.
  8. Ask Your People What They Want! Sit down with your people and ask them what they want out of their work. Identify what they want to grow, to develop greater control, autonomy and responsibility for the work they do for you. Help them achieve these goals specifically and incrementally. Meaningful engagement in their own future drives commitment and loyalty.
  9. Tell Your People What You Want of Them! Be specific and be clear but make sure you explain what you expect of them. Give them the tools, support and the time they need to get the work done. If they do not meet your expectations, bring them in and talk with them and find out what it will take to get them on track.
  10. Fire the Slugs. Hold your people accountable for their performance. If they don’t solve the problem, then terminate them with respect and dignity. Your good performers will love you.

About the Author

Jeff Kortes is known as the ‘No Nonsense Guy.’ He is the President of Human Asset Management LLC, a human resource consulting firm specializing in executive search and leadership training. He has trained hundreds of first-line supervisors, managers, and executives during his career. His approach to training is no-nonsense, and practical.

Jeff is also a member of the National Speakers Association and a regular speaker on the topics of retention, recruiting and leadership. For more information, visit