5 Steps to Take Before Firing That Problem Employee

You did everything right. You took the all right steps before hiring your first employee, you maintained a compliant employee handbook, and created a great work environment. But it happens – the employee you thought would be a great asset is now the bane of your company’s existence. You want the problem employee gone as soon as possible, but you are putting off doing the actual firing because firings are often tension-filled events on both sides of the desk. Without a doubt, one of the most difficult things business owners have to do on occasion is fire an employee who isn’t performing well or following protocol. This is especially difficult if the employee has been there a long time or gets along with everybody. But as a business owner sometimes you have to make difficult decisions to ensure the survival of your business. 

A termination of an employee requires some advance planning to better ensure it will go smoothly. This process begins before the actual termination event. Here we will discuss 5 steps to follow when firing an employee:

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1. Document Performance Issues

Unless an employee is committing grievous actions such as violating major safety rules or breaching confidentiality (and is rightfully terminated shortly after discovery) most of the time you are able to notice and document the offending behavior well before the firing actually takes place. Documentation of errant activities helps you establish evidence that can be used to deny an unemployment claim and to help prevent an unlawful termination lawsuit.

2. Address the Issues

Sometimes a bad behavior can be correct by you addressing it personally to the employee. This is best accomplished as a face-to-face meeting with the employee as soon as you are made aware of the performance issue. During the talk, detail the issue and try to be encouraging yet firm. Employees who are motivated will often respond positively to your talk and put a stop to the negative behavior—problem solved. And employees who may not be willing to adjust their behavior will still be given this chance to save their job, an act of goodwill on your part that the employee might remember if it comes to having to fire them.

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3. Develop a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)

When an employee is not performing adequately, it might be a good idea to implement a performance improvement plan. This plan will spell out what the prohibited behaviors are, what the expected behaviors are, and if or when the employee has to undergo additional mandatory training. Additionally, the employee should have regular meetings with you to provide feedback. PIP can be anywhere from 30 to 90 days. It’s also important to clearly communicate the consequences if the employee were to fail to comply with the requests. If you decide that one of the consequences for non-compliance is termination, include this in plan documents.

4. Evaluate PIP results

Meet with your employee again to evaluate his or her compliance to the PIP you implemented for them. Did they comply? Did they even try to make changes to their behavior? If they have not made any measurable changes, then you might want to consider termination.

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5. Terminate the Employee

If you decide to terminate an employee, set up a private face-to-face meeting with the in a place you won’t be overheard. Be direct in your approach and get to the point without engaging in chit-chat. Then state in one or two sentences the reason that they are being fired. Strive to maintain a caring yet resolute demeanor.

You may not want to fire the employee, but as a business owner you understand the impact a bad employee has on your workplace and your bottom line. Hopefully you will not have to fire an employee very often, but by following the above procedures hopefully this task will be a little less stressful. 

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