Five Mistakes Managers Make when Terminating Employees

by on May 29, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Get this emotional fear of terminating employees off your back.

There are five common mistakes that build up this fear of terminating employees in managers. Part of it is very much an emotional situation. Managers just don’t want to do it to people. But actually, if we document it properly, you’re going to give them their job. You’re not going to be terminating employees, you’re going to give them a chance to salvage their job. It’s up to them to decide what to do with their job. They can quit if they want. Or they can behave , they can become productive employees. They can fire themselves. You’re not going to do it for them.

  1. Not terminating employees who aren’t living up to standards of behavior or performance.
  2. Most of the states honor that implied contract. So if you allowed one employee to come in late everyday for a year and a half, two years, you’ve established an implied contract, that her coming in late is okay. Once I’ve done that, then I’ve set that precedent, not just for her but for the unit, for the division, potentially for the whole company. I’m only as good as my worst employee. Now, I can break the implied contract. You can declare that the consistent lateness has to stop. This puts pressure on management to assess the situation. Do it quickly. Try to salvage if you can. If you get the weed, then fire bad people quickly.

  3. Constructive discharge.
  4. Instead of terminating employees, managers choose to make them miserable until they quit. So instead of disciplining or terminating employees you just cut their hours to a point where they’re unsatisfied or you send them to a dead-end location or job. This is definitely not a safe way to fire.

  5. Do not retaliate by terminating employees
  6. Don’t try to get even. As a manager, if somebody files a claim, a harassment claim, some other kind of claim, don’t use your position to get even. Next to race discrimination, you see at the EEOC this high percentage of retaliation claims. Trying to retaliate against an employee is not a safe way to manage. And now, the retaliation becomes such a huge deal. And it’s easy if it goes to court for the jury to say, “Yeah, you know, the boss made him miserable just because of their complaint. The complaint wasn’t worthwhile but the boss shouldn’t have gone after the employee.”

  7. Don’t ask an employee to resign.
  8. If you go up to someone and say, “Resign or you’re fired” that is not a voluntary resignation. That’s either constructive discharge or it’s just a fire. It’s not a legitimate means of terminating employees. Even if they sign that thing they can still sue for discrimination. They can also still draw unemployment benefits.

    If it’s a voluntary resignation, that’s fine. If someone in the middle of that decides they want to resign, fine. But don’t go into a firing session or don’t go up to an employee and offer them a chance to resign before you terminate them. If you decide to do this, you’re really gambling on the good faith of the person involved.

  9. Create an atmosphere where good people want to thrive.
  10. I give challenging people a reasonable chance to save their job. Make it up to them to decide what to do with their job.

Edited remarks from the Rapid Learning Institute webinar: “Yes, You Can Fire Without Fear! What Every Supervisor Needs to Know” by Hunter Lott on April 29, 2009

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