How to Fire an Employee the Right Way
While termination is a last resort, sometimes an employee’s performance or behavior problems necessitate termination.
This is a business decision that is made by weighing factors such as the severity of the employee’s problems, effect of these problems on the practice, availability of a suitable replacement, and costs of recruiting, hiring, and training that replacement.
Termination should never come as a surprise to an employee. It should only occur after you have discussed performance problems with the individual, documented these discussions in writing, attempted remedial actions to improve the employee’s performance, and practiced progressive discipline (imposing increasingly severe penalties for repeat infractions). When an employee is not aware of his or her performance problems or impact on the organization, termination may seem abrupt and the employee may be more likely to legally challenge the decision. It is also important to document the communication so that the employee cannot say he or she was unaware. Lawsuits, regardless of the merits, are expensive to defend and may harm your practice’s reputation. Clear communication can go a long way in mitigating your practice’s litigation risk.
Once you have decided to terminate an employee, you must plan the process carefully. The proper steps are:
• Hold a termination meeting with the employee.
• Make arrangements for the employee to return property to the practice.
• Mail the employee’s final paycheck and notice of any continuing benefits for which the employee may be eligible.
• Handle prospective employers’ requests for references.
A termination agenda or script can lend structure to the process by detailing a list of topics to cover during the termination meeting. The agenda should also include a list of items to be returned to the employer and a reminder to confirm the employee’s address so that the last paycheck can be mailed.
Termination meetings are emotionally charged and stressful under the best of circumstances. Preparing an agenda in advance will give you an opportunity to map out what you want to say. It will also ensure that you cover all important points. Once you have decided what to say, rehearse with a partner so you become comfortable with the script. Being familiar with what you plan to say and anticipating the employee’s responses will help you feel more confident during the meeting. You wouldn’t go into surgery without a full understanding of the procedure. Similarly, you shouldn’t go into a termination meeting unless you are well prepared. The termination process is inevitably uncomfortable and carries a certain amount of risk. These tips will help you terminate an employee while minimizing business and legal risks to your practice. Table 1 outlines best practices for the termination process. It is not intended to replace the advice of an employment attorney or an experienced human resources consultant. | EVT