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How to gently fire an employee

let-go-of-nonperforming-employees-with-dignitySo last week I did the big “rah-rah” on why you should get marginal, low-performing employees out of your life. Why? Because the longer you procrastinate on firing someone the longer you postpone finding that stellar employee who is a joy to work with!

And yet you dread and put off this inevitable confrontation? Why? Sure, you cringe at all the work of hiring and training a new employee. But the true reason is found in that word “confrontation”! None of us enjoy adversarial situations and few conversations can be uglier than terminating an employee!

Now you can only “sugar coat” a firing so much! But even so I remember when a girlfriend let me down softly when she dumped me! Instead of detailing my many faults and sins she simply said, “Steve, its not you. It is me. But I think we both know this isn’t working out.” Ouch! But at least I still had my pride and dignity intact… sort of!

So how can we adopt this “Its not you. Its me…” statement when firing an employee! Simply say…

“Bill, I think we both know our company just isn’t giving you what you need and want in a career. So I’ve decided to let you find a job that suits you better…”

NOTE: It is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that you precisely follow state law when firing an employee. So work with your local attorney on developing a step-by-step legal process for employee termination. Or at the very least, follow closely your state’s Department of Labor termination guidelines.

CAUTION! I know it is so very tempting to “preach” at a departing employee. After all, you gave them a chance! And they repaid you by betraying your trust! So recriminations are in order for this loser! DON’T DO IT! Simply put, the less said the better. (Always treat a departing employee with respect and dignity… even if they don’t deserve it!)

One final thought. As cleaning and restoration contractors we have an additional moral and ethical obligation. (And some major financial liability too!) Remember that your employees are working in your customer’s “inner sanctum”- their homes and businesses. If deep down inside you sense your worker isn’t of the highest moral character… you know what you need to do!


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2 Responses to How to gently fire an employee

  1. Steve@GM May 13, 2015 at 8:47 PM #

    As an addition to what was said above, I believe we have an obligation as employers to give our employees every chance possible to succeed. With a few exceptions, I believe most people don’t intentionally do a bad job, so it is up to us to identify why the employee is under-performing and attempt to correct the problem through proper coaching and if needed, additional training. Who knows, maybe the problem lies in the training program itself? I know it is tempting to think ” I don’t have time to retrain my employees”, but I imagine the time needed to hire and train someone new is far greater. Only after we have exhausted all of our options and given the employee every opportunity to succeed, should we consider termination a viable option. However, once you’ve reached that step, you should proceed as the article states and move quickly (and carefully) to replace the employee. The added benefit to having gone through all this, is that you should be able to identify & correct problems in your new employees earlier during training rather than sometime after they’ve entered the field. This all applies to employees with performance issues however, as I believe that employees who willfully betray your trust will never truly respect you enough to warrant their continued employment, and therefore should be dealt with more swiftly.

  2. Steve Toburen May 14, 2015 at 8:28 AM #

    I agree, Steve! One of my favorite sayings when teaching SFS is “The fish rots from the head down!” So sure, if you keep having to fire one employee after another then it is time to do a self-analysis of your hiring and training systems. (Actually ANY time is appropriate for an honest self-examination!)

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