Managing a Team

Don't Ignore These Steps Before You Fire or Lay Off an Employee

It's never easy to lay off or fire an employee — but do you know how to go about it the right way while protecting the employee and your company?

Blog Author - Justworks
Mar 11, 20163 minutes
Blog Author - Justworks

Justworks is a technology company that levels the playing field for all small businesses. Through our software and as a partner, we help our customers take care of their teams, streamline their operations, and navigate the complex aspects of managing a workforce with confidence.

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Employee quits

So, you have an employee who is not the greatest asset to your business. It happens to every company at some point in time. Whatever the reason may be, firing an employee with no advance signs or warning may result in serious repercussions for your company. Firing an employee can lead to wrongful termination lawsuits, fines for not following the law, and low team morale.

Barring any extreme offenses, your employee should know if they're headed toward a layoff. That's why it's important to know what incidences merit immediate termination, and how to fire an employee the right way.

Reasons for Immediate Termination

In general, your company should never fire employees on a whim. Employees should be aware their job isn’t secure before you drop the axe. However, there are a few exceptions. These extenuating circumstances may be legitimate grounds for immediate termination:

Exhibiting Violent Behavior

If your employee is making threats or intimidating other coworkers, you shouldn’t wait long to pull the plug. And although there are varying opinions, most would agree yelling in the workplace isn't acceptable. Supporting a safe and welcoming work environment for your team should be your top priority.

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Disappearing Without a Word

Someone who is a consecutive no-show waives the right to keeping their position. Unless extreme circumstances occurred in which your employee was unable to inform you of their absence for days on end, when they surface you can inform them in a professional way that their services are no longer needed.

Sexually Harassing Other Employees

If people at your workplace come forward with complaints of sexual harassment, you should take the concerns seriously and act swiftly. According to the Huffington Post, one in three women experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers who ignore this or sweep it under the rug could face sinking team morale and years of litigious battles and settlements. If complainants come forward, it’s best to immediately investigate and let the person go if fault is found.

Displaying Inappropriate Workplace Behavior

It should go without saying, but if employees are looking at NSFW (Not Safe for Work) material on company computers, leaving for extended periods of time without giving a reason, using office phones at length for personal calls, or regularly sleeping over in the office, it may be grounds for immediate dismissal.

Leading Up to Letting Your Employee Go

You should rarely encounter the need to fire an employee immediately, with exceptions like those listed above. In fact, most employees should be given indication if they are underperforming and given a chance to improve their behavior. Here are five ways to lead up to that moment if you see it coming.

Don't Make it a Surprise

As Ty Deines at The Muse wrote, “The first and most important step in the firing process is to make sure your employee can see the train coming, long before it arrives.” Clearly define your reasons for letting someone go. This could be monetary issues for the company, performance problems, or you may simply feel that someone does not mesh well with the company culture. Don’t hold back from kindly giving your employees feedback that indicates the end of their time at your company is near.

Give the Employee an Opportunity to Improve

If you feel that letting someone go is not a certainty, but just a possibility, have a serious talk with the person. Set specific goals for him or her, and clearly outline the consequences if those goals go unmet. And remember: always have it in writing as a record for later. Not only will this protect you legally, but it will also ensure clear communication between both parties.

Related article: 8 Creative Ideas for Motivating Underperforming Reps

Offer a Regular Feedback Process

According to Office Vibe, there is a 15% lower turnover rate for companies who implement regular feedback. Offering a regular feedback process will help all your employees know where they stand, and those who don’t measure up won’t be so surprised if it’s time to let them go. In addition to the opportunity for employees to improve their work, it’s also another great way to get needed improvements in writing.

Tame the Gossip Mill

It’s easy for company gossip to get out of hand. While you don’t want to tell your employees sensitive details, you also don’t want them to speculate. Encourage transparency as is practical, while also discouraging talk that undervalues employees or gives permission to badmouth fellow team members. You can do this by practicing what you preach — keep employee morale high and display the positive qualities of a leader.

Related article:10 Easy Ways to Boost Team Morale on a Budget

Practice What You'll Say

When the time comes for you to have the termination talk, you want to have clearly in mind what you’ll say. This will help you control your emotions and get to the point. This doesn’t mean you must memorize a speech, but you may want to jot down your talking points and do a brief rehearsal beforehand.

Laying off or firing an employee is never an easy decision, and not one to be taken lightly. Make sure that you have unemployment insurance for your company as required by state and federal law, and to document the event as it’s occurring.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.
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Blog Author - Justworks
Mar 11, 20163 minutes

Justworks is a technology company that levels the playing field for all small businesses. Through our software and as a partner, we help our customers take care of their teams, streamline their operations, and navigate the complex aspects of managing a workforce with confidence.

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