Terminating employees is part of the responsibility of management and human resources personnel. It is not a particularly pleasant part of these positions, but can be a necessary one. Using tact, stating the issues clearly and specifically, and discussing the final details can help make an employee termination less stressful for the parties involved. Calm, open discussion can also leave a lasting impression of fairness on the parting employee and remaining staff members.
There are a number of reasons why it can become necessary to terminate an employee. There may be a continuing pattern of poor quality or incomplete work habits. An employee may need to be terminated for theft or improper discounting of goods. An employee who causes disruption with other staff members may need to be terminated. Refusal to follow instructions, falsifying qualifications, or constant absenteeism and tardiness may also be considered infractions severe enough for termination.
When possible, basic etiquette of face-to-face conversation should be used. In an age of emails and texting, it is still considered inappropriate and rude to terminate and employee via text message or email. Even a phone call is less desirable than a face-to-face meeting. There are some extreme circumstances that may warrant a letter, email or other means of communication if the employee is potentially violent or incarcerated. Avoid raising your voice or using sarcasm; these actions tend to cause people to become defensive.
Directly state your concerns and reasons for the termination. Do not generalize or use vague statements about how things “just did not work out.” Be specific about what the infractions were and how they negatively affect the company and other staff members. Restate previous opportunities that were given to correct the situation, and the specifics of what did not improve after these opportunities.
Discussing what can be expected regarding final matters can help the terminated employee feel less detached and angry. For example, the employee may wonder about the status of pay due, uniform returns or fees, company vehicles, and "housekeeping" issues like returning building keys. Addressing each relevant detail will show that you have thought through the process, and avoids putting the responsibility on the parting employee to ask. It is also a good idea to discuss what items may be passed on as unfavorable in a reference check by future employers of the terminated employee.
Curbing gossip and misunderstanding in remaining staff can be accomplished by directly addressing the need to terminate a specific employee. Avoid character bashing and personal opinions by stating the specific infraction, the negative impact on the company and staff, and the handbook policy that describes why the infraction was grounds for termination.
Pepper Near has written articles on such topics on such topics as growth and development in human beings and HIV/AIDS. Her expertise includes at-risk and teen parenting, childhood risk and resilience, and poverty issues. She holds a Master of Science in human development and family studies from Central Michigan University.