The 7 Deadly Sins of Firing an Employee (And How To Avoid Them)

The 7 Deadly Sins of Firing an Employee (And How To Avoid Them)

You can fire anyone at any time for any reason or no reason… that’s what employment at-will is all about, right?

Yet, employee terminations are fraught with anxiety because they involve people, people who have families, bills, tuition, health issues… an endless list. The employee also has a history, relationships with co-workers. Termination of employment changes everything.

For employers, it often seems the easiest course of action is avoidance and hoping things will improve. Understandable, popular and wrong.

There are 100 wrong ways to terminate Toxic Tom. Avoid these at all costs:

1. Fast & Furious. Reacting rather than acting.
The boss storms in and blusters, “We have to fire Tom by 4:00 tomorrow. ” Don’t fight fire with gasoline. Emotional reactions are costly. Take time to examine documentation. Empty file = empty wallet.

2. Avoidance. Failing to do what you know you should.
When everyone knows Toxic Tom should be terminated yet management fails to take action, everyone loses. Tom is hurting the most; all eyes are on him.

3. Lone Ranger. No witnesses.
Sure, you’re a tough guy. If you handle terminations all by yourself, you’re not a smart guy. Get yourself a Tonto to witness the termination. Cut the “he said – she said” off at the pass.

4. Neglecting Outplacement. Why pay more money?
Before, during and after termination meetings, outplacement delivers a favorable ROI. Paying for outplacement is the best way to connect your Tom with a new income stream. When Tom captures his next job sooner, many potentially expensive risks fade. Offering outplacement and job search assistance in every separation agreement is an important mitigating factor for later legal claims.

5. Bypassing Attorneys. After all, you’ve had many years of experience!
Two things are more expensive than good legal advice: (1) cheap legal advice and (2) no legal advice. Legal expenses to defend wrongful termination claims average $75,000.. before you get near a courtroom. Do you have plenty of free time? Consider the costs when you find your team leaders sitting through depositions.

6. Saying the Wrong Things. I never said that…. did I?
Nothing you can say will make Tom feel better about getting fired. Prepare a short script and stick to it. Hand Tom his separation agreement. Leave no room for arguments or debate. Acknowledge and reflect: “I hear what you are saying, but the decision is final.”

7. Winging it. Don’t “just get it over with.”
A smooth termination requires a tightly scripted sequence of events. It’s a huge mistake to just wing it without third-party advice from an expert, a script, and careful planning. Assume you may have personal liability and an aggressive plaintiff’s attorney depose you. Be prepared.

If you don’t have time or money to do it right the first time, how can you find the time or money to do it over? In the world of employee terminations, there are no do-overs.