It is unpleasant to have to fire an employee. It is also costly, in several respects. Whatever training the employee received is wasted. To find and train a substitute will take time and money. You also pay a price in the inconvenience of being short-handed, even for a short time. And the dismissal may have a demoralizing effect on the other employees. Nevertheless, if it becomes necessary to fire someone, you must do it.
Here are suggestions for handling a dismissal with a minimum of unpleasantness and cost.
1. Give the employee warning
A sudden dismissal without some previous warning of trouble is rare. If you have done nothing about an employee’s earlier infractions or poor work, and then suddenly decide that he has to be let go, you are being inconsiderate. Every employee deserves the benefit of initial warnings about unsatisfactory work or behavior; ample chance for corrections and improvements; even a chance for a transfer to another department where he might do better. He should also have your encouragement and advice when he first experiences trouble.
When other employees know that this is your practice, they also know that someone who seems to have been fired without warning actually had abundant notice, and every chance to improve. This is important, because employees are fearful and resentful when it appears that firings are handled inconsiderately and seem to come without warning.
2. Have good cause when you fire someone
The power to dismiss an employee is not to be used capriciously. You must have a substantial reason before you can fire someone in good conscience. Again, the morale of your subordinates will suffer seriously if they feel that you will make up a flimsy excuse to fire an employee you don’t like. (If your subordinates are unionized, of course, the causes for which an employee can be discharged are probably spelled out in a contract.)
3. Don’t humiliate an employee whom you are firing
If it becomes necessary to dismiss someone, let him know about your decision in private conference. Climaxing a public disagreement in front of other employees by yelling, “You’re fired!” is inexcusable melodrama that disgraces the employee before his fellow workers. In the privacy of your office or a conference room, tell him not only that he is being dismissed, but also why. Even in private, you should not get angry with him; make it clear that you take this action with regret and only after trying to prevent it. If his reaction is an angry one, avoid answering him the same way and creating an ugly scene.
4. Give him any last-minute help you can
The reasons for an employee’s dismissal may be such that you can still recommend him to another employer. Certainly you can see that he gets any severance pay or other company benefits due him. Your company may permit you to allow an employee who is on notice for dismissal to take time off to seek a new job. The employee who is leaving will appreciate any help you arc able to give him—and your consideration won’t go unnoticed by his fellow workers, either.