It’s the situation all entrepreneurs dread: the realization that you have to let an employee go. While it’s never an easy task to terminate a member of your team (no matter the reason), it can be especially difficult for small business owners; instead of simply serving as the messenger, you are the messenger. With a smaller team, relationships are often more complex, bonds stronger and the workplace more tightknit.
But although the task of firing a poor performer might seem incredibly unpleasant, it’s important for small business owners to do the right thing for their company. After all, your store is not only your life, but your livelihood as well. So to help make the task easier, here are five tips to terminate an employee … the right way.
Give Them A Chance To Improve. If you’re on the brink of firing an employee, there’s a good chance you’ve been tossing the idea around for a few weeks. Before jumping the gun, have a meeting with the employee and go over your concerns. This will give him or her a chance to recognize your dissatisfaction and improve in the areas you’re unhappy with. If a few weeks go by and you don’t see a significant improvement, it’s a sign your employee is not the right match for your business and it’s time for the next steps.
Get Organized. The task of terminating an employee is a serious one and requires a lot of organization. Before arranging your meeting, make sure you have all of the necessary documentation so the process will go as smooth as possible. It’s also a good idea to jot down a few key points about why you’re firing them in case you get nervous. When you’re prepared with the necessary paper work, take a few moments before the meeting to practice what you’re going to say.
Don’t Do It Alone. There are a flood of emotions that arise when someone is being fired, and you never know how an employee is going to react. Because it’s such a sensitive and emotional situation, it’s always best to have an HR representative or a senior employee present during the conversation. A witness will be able to take notes and help ensure the employee stays calm during the conversation. If in HR, the witness can also provide details about the severance package and administrative details.
Make It Short and Respectful. The act of firing an employee is never a pleasant one, so it’s always best to keep the interaction as brief as possible. Be honest with your reasons for terminating their employment, and don’t be apologetic. If your employee asks questions, answer them in a clear and concise way. You may feel pressure to offer consolation, but remember to keep it professional. Any mixed messages will only cause more stress and anxiety about the situation.
Keep it Dignified. When the difficult task is over, let the employee leave with dignity. Plan to have the conversation during the lunch hour or at the end of the day, when other employees aren’t present. If necessary, allow the employee to pick up their belongings after-hours.
Also, be sure to keep all of your comments professional; this is not the time to blame, insult or attack someone personally. Wish them luck, thank them for their service and shake their hand. Remember: how you deal with letting an employee go says more about you than it does about him or her.