How to ‘gently fire’ an employee

let-go-of-nonperforming-employees-with-dignitySo recently I did the big “rah-rah” on why you should get marginal, low-performing employees out of your life… NOW! Why? Because the longer you procrastinate on firing someone the longer you postpone recruiting that stellar employee for your Critical Mass Business team!

And yet you dread and put off this inevitable confrontation? Why? But the true reason is found in that word “confrontation”! None of us enjoy the ‘adversarial situation’ of terminating an employee! (And yet- you MUST do it NOW!)

Now you can only ‘sugar coat’ a firing so much! How to do it? I remember when a girlfriend let me down softly when she dumped me! Instead of detailing my many faults and 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 you adapt this “Its not you. Its me…” statement to firing an employee! Simply say…

“Bill, I think we’ve both come to realize 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 where you can feel fulfilled…”

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-soon-to-be-ex-employee. After all, you gave them a chance! And they repaid you by betraying your trust! So you feel 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 you think don’t deserve it!)

IMPORTANT: As cleaning and restoration contractors we have a HUGE moral and ethical obligation! (And 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 know your worker isn’t of the highest moral character… GET THEM OUT NOW!


2 thoughts on “How to ‘gently fire’ an employee”

  1. 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. 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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