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How To Fire Someone

Aug 17, 2007
If you manage people for any length of time, it's likely that, at some stage, you'll need to let one or more people go.

It might be because they aren't performing to your expectations; because you no longer need their role performed; or because they've breached the law or a company policy.

Whatever the circumstances, firing or retrenching someone is a confronting and often stressful task.

Here are some suggestions to make the process easier and less traumatic - for you as well as the person you need to dismiss.

Depending on why you need to let someone go - whether it's due to poor performance, a role that's no longer needed, or a legal or policy breach - here's what I suggest you do...

1. Poor Performance

Firing or relocating someone because of poor performance is often the trickiest situation because (a) it may be unclear why your employee is underperforming, and (b) depending on the relevant labor laws, it may be difficult for you to prove that he or she is underperforming and that you're legally justified in firing him or her.

So, if you are dissatisfied with someone, the first step is to work out why he or she has performed so poorly. Specifically, is it because of:

* You
* The organization, or
* The poor performer?

Beginning with you... are you managing the person satisfactorily?

This is important because not only may it be unnecessary to fire your staff member (i.e. you might find that his or her performance picks up simply by changing the way you manage) but you could also avoid a "wrongful dismissal" claim being thrust on you.

Alternatively, if both you and your employee work for someone else... has that "someone else" - i.e. your organization - somehow failed to provide enough resources for your employee to do his or her job properly? Is it failing to give you the support you need to carry out your management responsibilities?

If so, you may need to ask for changes or more support from the "powers that be". And remember, if the company is to blame... firing and replacing your employee will not improve matters.

Unless... it's your staff member - and neither you nor your company are responsible for the poor performance.

Is the employee ill suited to the role? Does he or she lack key talents, skills or knowledge? Are their personality clashes with you or other colleagues that are interfering with his or her work? Or are there personal issues that are affecting the employee's attitude or performance at work?

Above all, is there anything you can do about any of this?

If not - and you've done all you can to help your employee improve - then the writing in on the wall. You cannot afford to keep people on who don't pull their weight!

Nevertheless, this doesn't mean you can't fire someone in a fair and compassionate way.

In fact, you can make it easier by giving the employee plenty of notice - at least 1 month and up to 2 months if the job market is tight and you can afford it.

And if, during this time, you don't want the employee to continue doing his or her old job, give him or her other work to do.

Lastly, let the individual apply for jobs and attend interviews. Even better (if you can afford it), pay for him or her to attend career change training, where he or she will learn how to prepare, or update, his or her resume and apply for new jobs.

2. The Role Is No Longer Needed

If you simply don't have enough work to go around - or it's clear that a particular employee's role is no longer needed - you'll have to "retrench" him or her.

In this case, it's important to remember that the worker is not to blame for losing his or her job.

If you can, redeploy the employee in another role. But if that's not feasible try to be extra considerate when letting him or her go by providing plenty of notice, letting him or her apply for jobs on your dime, and paying for career change training.

3. Legal / Corporate Policy Breach

Now we come to what may appear to be the easiest situation in which to sack someone - where the employee has breached the law or a corporate policy.

Well, it can still be tough, if not tougher!

First of all, if you think someone has done something wrong, make sure you have solid proof before making any accusations or commencing the dismissal process. And comply with all corporate and legal requirements.

Secondly, be prepared to give the employee a fair hearing... and be prepared for what he or she has to say.

If there are extenuating circumstances, you might take these into account when deciding whether and how to sack the individual, depending on your professional, corporate and legal obligations.

For example, you might decide to put the employee on some kind of "probation."

Be very careful about taking it easy on someone who has clearly lied, stolen or breached your trust, though. While it might seem only fair to help out a person you let go because of poor performance, or because his or her role is no longer required... when it comes to a wrongdoer... I reckon you should cut the "dead wood" out of your team or organization before the rot starts to spread!

So there you have some general tips for firing or letting someone go. Hopefully, if you do need to use these tips, you'll find the task of dismissing someone much easier and less stressful.
About the Author
Anna Johnson is the author of the How To Manage People System, including her book, How To Manage People (Even If You're A Control Freak!). Get Anna's FREE 12-page report How To Be An Outstanding Manager - The 8 Vital Keys To Managing People Effectively
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