How to Fire an Employee Compassionately
Being a boss or superior at your workplace comes with a wide variety of perks. Having to fire an employee isn’t one of them. In fact, many bosses would argue it’s the worst or hardest part of the job. However, with great power comes great responsibility. There will come a time when you have to let an employee go. Learn how to at least do it with compassion.
Doing the Deed
Practice the conversation beforehand.No matter how many times you have had to fire someone, the deed never becomes easy. Most companies offer a general script or guidelines to use when firing.Even if you have this, it’s still a good idea to practice what you’ll say just in case you freeze up or go on and on rambling.
- You might stand in front of a mirror or read from a sheet of paper for a few times before calling the employee in to see you. You might even have the opportunity to role play with someone in HR who can offer you helpful pointers.
Terminate your employee in person and in private.Be discreet when you call the meeting. Do not announce your intentions to the rest of the team or the workplace. Do it in person, face to face and with integrity.
- Remind yourself that early on the employee will likely be angry and devastated, but sometime in the future, he or she may feel appreciative of the way you handled it. Hopefully, this situation can be used as a benchmark to improving his future career.
Try to see the situation from the employee’s shoes.A big part of showing compassion is having empathy for another person. Empathy is basically the same as trying see things from someone else’s point-of-view. Even if the employee is being let go due to misbehavior, he or she will still likely be upset by the news. Be mindful of how you would feel in the same situation as you fire the employee.
Don’t beat around the bush.Firing an employee with compassion means getting to the point. It’s terrible to sit there and see your boss stammering or going in circles around the issue, having to wonder what all the fuss is about. Get to the point as quickly and succinctly as you can.
- An example of a direct, to-the-point way of firing someone with compassion is as follows: “Good afternoon, Charles. I asked you in here because we have decided to let you go. Today is your last day working for us and I want to thank you for your service with the company. There are a few things I have to go over first. Then, you are welcome to ask questions.”
- Do not send any mixed signals that can be misinterpreted or leave the impression that this isn't a warranted or necessary termination. You do not want to open up the organization to a lawsuit.
Explaining the Choice
Explain exactly why you are terminating the employee.If it is for job performance and you have been doing the job yourself, it should not come as any surprise to the employee. If the company is just doing poorly and needs to cut jobs, be sure to explain that fully and praise and thank the employee for his or her contributions.
Show supporting documentation.Firing due to performance or conduct reasons won’t be a surprise, but it’s still a good thing to have supporting information at this meeting. When you produce thorough reports of incidents or performance reviews, the employee is likely to be much more accepting of the outcome.
- Also, having adequate documentation to back up firing someone minimizes the likelihood that the employee will attempt to sue the firm for wrongful termination. He won’t be able to argue with clear and well-documented reports.
Offer the employee the chance to talk.Obviously, if you did the deed with clear and direct language, the employee will understand that the termination is non-negotiable. Still, he or she may want to ask some questions or even argue his point about a specified grievance. Even if you have no intention of reversing the termination, it’s still considerate to hear the employee out, if only to allow him or her to leave with dignity.
Ease the burden, if possible.For cases in which the employee was released due to budget cuts or some other reason not of his own doing, try to help as much as possible with the transition. You might explain a severance package or bonus if there will be one provided. At the very least, if you thought he or she was a good employee, you might offer to provide a good reference to future employers.
- Remember, you have worked alongside this person and may even know the employee on a personal level. Make an attempt to help with the burden of being terminated. You never know, someday someone might offer the same consideration to you.
Fire the employee as early in the week as possible.Do not terminate an employee at the end of the week. A Thursday or Friday fire means the individual will likely spend the weekend sitting around feeling sorry for himself. If you do it early in the week, the employee can quickly dive into the action of finding new employment as quickly as possible.
Refrain from getting emotional.Knowing the person you are laying off can be a particular pain in the neck. However, you must remain objective and remember that it is not about you. Acting overly apologetic or showing emotion takes away the employee’s ability to react to the firing. Instead, he or she is forced to keep a straight face and toughen up in order to soothe your feelings.
- It’s not personal. Be considerate and compassionate, but reel in your emotions and allow the person to have time to react without worrying about you.
Have an escort or backup nearby in case the situation goes bad.You can never predict how a termination will go. Some employees might burst into tears, others might stare at you as if in a daze, and still others may become angry and hostile. It’s a good practice to have another manager or security on standby.
- If the employee responds with anger, you might say something like “Charles, there’s no need to handle things this way. I’m willing to answer your questions, but I won’t be able to if you are cursing and yelling.”
Avoid announcing the decision during an office meeting.One way to strike up the rumor mill is to call too much attention to an employee termination. Although it’s important to address the situation with the rest of the staff, refrain from too much pomp and circumstance. Don’t schedule a special meeting just to break the news.
Video: How to fire someone - be compassionate and not get sued
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