Fair Firing: How to Let an Employee Go

Firing an employee is one of the most unpleasant parts of being a leader in any industry—particularly in small business, where teams tend to be tight-knit. It’s a decision that triggers an emotional reaction—you’re never quite sure how someone will take the news, or what the consequence might be.
Although the process is never easy, the way you approach letting someone go can make it less painful for both you and the employee in question. Here are four tips to help you fire an employee fairly.

Tip #1: Have a Process in Place

When it comes time to let an employee go, it should never be a surprise. Your employee handbook should clearly set forth the rules and guidelines you expect each employee to adhere to. When an employee breaks a rule or fails to meet a set expectation, be sure to issue a formal warning documented in writing. When issuing the warning, clearly state what the consequences will be if changes aren’t made. Providing employees with clear guidance as to what you expect, and a clear process of warnings and opportunities to improve, will give them the best possible chance of shaping up before you ship them out.

Tip #2: Work out the Details in Advance

Before having a discussion with your employee, make sure to nail down all of the details of their departure: when you’d like them to leave, what property they need to return, what passwords, security codes, and keys need to be changed, etc. Also make sure to have all of the documentation of events leading up to the firing decision on hand during the discussion in case the employee disputes any of your claims.

Tip #3: Have a Witness

In many cases, especially if you anticipate resistance from your staff member, having a witness on hand during the firing discussion is a good idea. That way, you’ll have a third party to corroborate your story if the fired employee accuses you of any misconduct.

Tip #4: Do It Quickly

When you’ve made the decision to let an employee go, don’t drag out the process. Once the details are ironed out, schedule a chat with the staff member expediently so you can both move on.

The Bottom Line

Every part of the firing process should be conducted with this thought in mind: Treat your employee as you would want to be treated if you were in his or her shoes. Be as fair as possible, but also be firm once you’ve made your final decision.

6 Hiring Tips for Small Businesses

At a small company, each and every person plays a pivotal role in your business’s daily operations. As owner, this means that hiring is one of your most important responsibilities.
Hiring criteria will vary depending on your company’s size, industry, and location, but these 6 tips apply universally to anyone looking to bring on new staff member.

Tip #1: Clearly Define Each Role

If your job description is vague, you’re going to have a hard time finding a candidate who’s interested—at least a candidate that you’d want to hire. Make sure to clearly define the responsibilities of each new staff member you’re hiring for, and tie each role back to your business’s overall mission.

Tip #2: Look for a Good Fit with Your Vision and Culture

Just because someone has relevant work experience doesn’t mean that they’ll be a good fit for your position. When reviewing cover letters and conducting interviews, make sure to look for signs that a candidate will mesh with your business’s vision and culture. For example, if you own a daycare whose mission is to help prepare kids to succeed in elementary school, and a candidate doesn’t really care much about education, they’re probably not going to help you achieve your goals, even if they’ve had previous experience with childcare.

Tip #3: Enlist Your Team’s Help in Recruiting

You’ve already done the hard work of hiring great people for your team, so why not enlist their help to hire other great people? Most employees are happy to recommend potential candidates for open positions, especially if there’s a referral bonus or other incentive in place.

Tip #4: Don’t Settle for a Lesser Candidate

It happens to everyone—an employee quits suddenly, leaving a gaping hole in your staff and causing more work for everyone left behind. But hiring the first candidate you interview just to get someone in the door will likely cause more hiring work in the long run. Take your time and find the right person for the job, even if it means longer shifts for you and your staff in the meantime.

Tip #5: Take Candidates for a Test Run

A candidate can look great on paper, but when the rubber hits the road, they don’t actually have the skills or learning aptitude the job requires. Restaurants, bakeries, and other food establishments already have a stage system in place that makes test runs a part of the hiring process, but other small businesses can adopt a similar system when it makes sense. It benefits you as the employer by seeing how a person will perform on the job, and it benefits the potential employee by giving them a chance to experience what their day-to-day would look like.

Tip #6: Have a Clear Onboarding Process

Once you’ve hired someone, make sure to have a clear onboarding process in place. Throwing someone in the deep end with no guidance, or training them piecemeal over the course of a few weeks, will put the new person (and your business) at a disadvantage. Take the time up front to develop documentation and training plans to make the onboarding process as smooth as possible.

The Bottom Line

People are a key component in a small business’s success. Take the time and effort needed to hire great staff members who will help you achieve your goals and make a positive contribution to the culture and vision you’ve created.

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