E-mail/verbal warnings and employee terminations: A bad combination
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E-mail/verbal warnings and employee terminations: A bad combination

Documentation standards for employee terminations

Verbal warnings can work fine as part of the employee termination process. It’s not helpful to walk around all day long with a little book and little sheets of paper, making people sign off that they received communication from you. It creates too much drama. It also sends the wrong message; you’re not in the baby-sitting business. That said, employee terminations, verbally without any formal documentation, is obviously a bad idea.

It’s all right to give some verbal warnings informally, like if you verbally reprimand someone for showing up to work late. But you should make yourself a note on a calendar or on a computer, but they are very informal. Don’t make a big deal out of it. If that works, that’s great.

If it doesn’t work after several verbal warnings, then you go back and you write up the employee in a way that’s more formal. You say, “As we’ve discussed, this continues to be a problem. This is why it’s a problem, here’s what you need to do. Here’s what happens if you don’t.”

You can take credit for the verbal warnings, verbal reprimands. You want to keep it informal to try to solve discipline issues first, if possible. But, then go back and take credit for it too with employee terminations.

The idea of email warnings
Realize that email is a very efficient way to communicate. But, you’re leaving out voice tone, you’re leaving out body language, so the true meaning over email may get very convoluted. So, as wonderful as email is in terms of efficiency, email warnings are not a great substitute for verbal warnings.

Employee terminations through email are not the thing to do.
People, whether it’s the former employees or their buddies who still work there, they will find a way to get even for the employee terminations. And, I’m not talking sabotage. But, they’ll call in sick, they’ll, they’ll find a way to do that.

So, emails are best used for efficiency. But be very careful in terms of true documentation. People will always be able to claim they didn’t receive email warnings, especially with employee terminations. Soon we’ll be sophisticated enough that we’ll be able to verify that we received email with just fingerprint or voiceprint. But until we get that sophisticated, you want hard copy documentation of email or verbal warnings. Before you start employee terminations, make sure you can prove that you gave them a reasonable chance to save their job.

These are the edited remarks from the Rapid Learning Institute webinar:
“Yes, You Can Fire Without Fear! What Every Supervisor Needs to Know” hosted by Hunter Lott, Esq. on 2-22-07

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