10 tips for firing employees without escalation


Cheryl Contee is the author of Mechanical Bull: How You Can Achieve Startup Success, CEO of ImpactSeat.org & Founder of DoBigThings.today.

In a country that is both litigating and still adapting to new norms of workplace behavior, including diversity, equality and inclusion, letting an employee go can be dangerous to your bank account and possibly your health.

The fact is, according to The Violence Project, workplaces are the most common websites of mass shootings. And most of those shooters had been fired from their jobs. Whether accurate or not, most of us are familiar with the slang term “go mailthat’s been around for decades. While this is an extreme conclusion, it’s important for us to recognize the sensitive nature of letting someone go.

I’ve been CEO of small technology companies for some time now and before that I was an executive with reports in other companies. So I hired a lot of people and sometimes I had to fire people. It’s annoying for everyone involved. To date, I have never had to deal with legal action or any other escalation from an employee that I have had to lay off. I think that’s because the approach I’ve taken strives to be humane and to respect the dignity of each person.

Here are my ten tips for safely, effectively and thoughtfully firing team members:

1. No Surprises: The moment of termination should never be a surprise. Explicit oral and written communication must begin at least two weeks before the day of discharge. Warnings should have been given several times prior to the conversation or sit-down that the person’s future with the organization is in jeopardy.

2. Documenting: Involving in written forms over several weeks, all ways in which the employee underperformed (if relevant).

3. Decoration: No matter how angry, impatient, disgusted and/or disappointed you are with the person in front of you, it is critical to remain as compassionate and firm as possible.

4. Gratitude: Even if the employee’s performance was not optimal, most people did their best (at least once). Thanking the person for their efforts and contributions to the company is always appreciated at this time.

5. Triangulate: Make sure there are always two people in the room with the employee to be fired, partly to avoid ‘he said, she said’ and to provide a possible witness.

6. Care: This is almost always a scary and vulnerable moment for people. That’s why I recommend providing some kind of severance pay that is commensurate with the employee’s tenure and seniority. It is especially more difficult for older employees in senior management to find a new job quickly. For senior staff, I think two to four months is a minimum amount, while two weeks to two months may be sufficient for starters. An equivalent amount of COBRA is of course welcome, but these are possible floors.

7. Termination Agreement: In exchange for financial support, make sure the departing employee signs a thoughtful separation letter that (if applicable) provides accrued vacation time, money, and COBRA for a specified period of time. This letter should contain confidential, NDA and anti-poaching language. It must also explicitly prevent any future legal action by the employee.

8. Exit system access: Ensure that access to all systems for the specific employee is removed during or immediately after the termination interview to prevent angry energy and/or sabotage from entering your digital workplaces.

9. Next Steps: The staff member’s world may suddenly feel like it’s collapsing. Following steps are helpful in preventing an emotional situation from escalating and can help the employee refocus on near-term events. Let the team member know what comes next in the process: timeline, materials to be assessed, equipment to be returned, exit interview, departure date, etc.

10. Thank them again. Thank them for their efforts and give a short pep talk (e.g. “You are very talented and a hard worker. I’m sure you’ll find something soon”) and wish them the best of luck in a position that suits them better. strengths. Let them know if they can expect a positive reference for future employers, if any.

This flow has worked for me time and time again. I believe it is essential in a changing, volatile world to treat people gracefully, if only for one’s own safety. Since employees can rate you and your company publicly online or by word of mouth, just as you can rate them, it’s smart to let team members go in a way that allows you to stay on the best terms.

Hopefully you can be a part of helping America become a more respectful and kinder place for all. After all, no matter where you are in the organization, there is always a chance that you will be the one facing the chopping block of layoffs. The golden rule still applies, even in a fluid and dynamic climate.

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