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Firing an employee without getting burned

You know you have put it off for too long, and your company has suffered because of it. However, if you are honest with yourself, the potential ramifications of firing this particular employee -- or maybe any employee -- make you so nervous you have been willing to endure having this person on the staff and risk the damage he or she is doing.

Whether the employee is performing poorly or dragging down company morale, there is no question that you must terminate his or her employment. The problem is that you may not be sure how to do it without an emotional – or even violent – scene. Worse, how can you fire an employee without facing a wrongful termination lawsuit?

Cleaning house

Ideally, you have logged the performance deficiencies or policy violations for some time, addressing the issues calmly and directly with the employee. This may have included documentation of your coaching sessions and written acknowledgement from the employee that he or she was not meeting expectations and that you or your manager clearly explained what the employee needed to do to improve. If you followed these procedures, the termination meeting should not be a surprise, and that may reduce the possibility of an emotional meltdown.

On the day of termination, business advisors recommend you do the following:

  • Show respect and empathy at all times.
  • Keep your emotions in check.
  • Do not place blame or admit fault, but demonstrate regret at having to fire anyone.
  • Terminate the employee quickly and concisely.
  • State the reason for the separation simply.

Your human resources leader can take it from here, discussing the details of a severance package offered on the condition that the employee sign a legal release. HR can also handle the separation paperwork and other details. In fact, it may be best if you remain in the room silently, maintaining your role as the leader of the company but allowing your HR representative to deal with the minutiae.

Lean on your resources

Advisors say it is not necessary to drag out the meeting. The employee's reaction may dictate your own. If the employee is calm and regretful, you may wish to respond sympathetically. However, an employee who reacts with anger or threats should probably be removed from the building as quickly as possible and may even require the presence of security.

Business advocates stress the fact that showing respect for the dismissed employee is essential, even when you announce the firing to the rest of your staff. You can protect the worker's dignity by not discussing with your staff the reasons for the termination and forbidding others from speaking about it, especially to the media. This respectful behavior can set a positive tone in your Ohio company.

While terminating an employee carries many legal risks, there are a variety of options for reducing or eliminating those risks. Seeking legal counsel throughout the process may prevent you from making crucial mistakes that could jeopardize the well-being of your company.

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