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What to do if an employee just doesn't work out

What to do if an employee just doesn't work out

Try as you might, sometimes an employee is just not able to lift their game to support your business. We go over some considerations to help keep your business protected when you're sure a staff member has no future at your company.

Ending a relationship with an employee is not a welcome task for even the most accomplished manager. But if you keep the following steps in mind it can help to make that hard conversation a little easier.

Follow protocols

Ensure you have done everything according to the book prior to termination. For example, making sure the employee has been briefed on their underperformance and is aware of what your expectations are.

Call a meeting

It’s best for all terminations to occur in a face-to-face meeting. When you call a meeting, try not to give them more than a few minutes’ notice. Otherwise, they may get overly anxious and be highly emotional during the meeting.

Be quick

Tell the employee immediately that their employment has been terminated and why. Be direct, but also compassionate by telling them you understand that it’s not easy for them. You could try practising the conversation beforehand to determine what needs to be said.

Diffuse difficult situations

There is always the potential for an employee to react with anger. If they try to argue, firmly and calmly tell them the decision has been made and reiterate why. Try not to react to their anger. Some employees may want to retaliate by exposing company secrets. It’s wise to gently remind them of any contractual obligations they have.

Have answers ready

The employee may have questions, such as what happens to future meetings they have scheduled and when they will receive their final paycheque. By ensuring you know the answers ahead of time, you are more likely to come across as confident and certain of your decision.

Provide feedback

Employees are rarely fired because they are bad people. They may simply be unsuitable for the job. You could try asking the employee what type of work they would like to do and offer assistance, but only if you can help. Highlight the things they did well and what you appreciated about their work.

Wrap it up

The employee may be upset after the meeting and may not want to go back to their desk to collect their things. Give them the option of coming back in a few days or after hours so they can leave the building without their colleagues seeing them upset.

Keep records

Keeping a file note as a record after the meeting can come in handy if the employee takes legal action. It can also be a good resource for you to examine how you handled the situation.

Firing someone is never easy for you or the employee. However, ensuring you follow protocol and staying aware of your legal obligations will help make the process smoother. As always, seek advice from a trusted and knowledgeable advisor.

Graham Winter is an organisational psychologist with decades of experience improving performance. Read his tips on getting the most out of your staff.

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