The legal and human elements behind employee termination

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

The blend of law, HR management, and psychology in the employee termination process

A lot is written about how to handle employee terminations so the decision doesn’t rebound on the employer. And that’s right and proper – the consequences of botched employee terminations can be severe. But while focusing on the legal aspects of employee terminations, HR pros and managers shouldn’t lose sight of the human element. You want your organization to have a reputation among employees and outsiders as firm, fair – and humane.

Principled Compassion
Here are some questions you might ask yourself when you have to decide whether to fire somebody, or impose lesser discipline. These ideas, which together make up a method called Principled Compassion, blend the legal and the human elements of employee terminations:

  • What is a proportionate response to the misconduct or performance gaffe in question?
  • Forty lashes on the quarterdeck for stealing a hunk of stale bread is not proportionate.

  • Are you focusing on a single person as the culprit, or are others partly accountable?
  • There’s a human tendency to blame everything on a single scapegoat, but situations are often more complex than that.

  • Has the employee who broke the rule(s) been properly trained for the position?
  • If not, his/her behavior may be partly the manager’s fault – or yours.

  • Did the organization have checks and balances in place to prevent the misconduct?
  • It may go against your grain to think that employees should be protected from their dubious impulses, but such controls can save a lot of trouble – and people’s jobs.

  • Are you, or whoever is investigating, giving too much weight to information that comes in first, and then refusing to be open to a different conclusion?
  • The latter attitude is known as “confirmation bias,” and it’s easy to fall into.

Source: Michael P. Maslanka, Ford &Harrison law firm,

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