Advice on how to fire an employee for the first time

“Can you tell Susan Henderson she’s fired?” asked Manager Carl Cooper, a 20-something worker who’d been promoted to management about a year earlier.

“That’s your job,” said HR Manager Marlene Maitland. “You’re her manager. You’re the one who warned her about her chronic lateness and lagging performance.”

“I know,” Carl said. “But some of this stuff sounds like it isn’t her fault. Her youngest child is sick a lot, and her ex-husband gives her a hard time.”

Executed discipline policy…

“Carl, you gave her one chance after another, and then finally you executed the progressive discipline policy,” said Marlene. “We can’t let an employee’s personal problems drag down our business’s performance.”

“I know,” he said. “But …”

“You’ve handled this well so far,” said Marlene. “But Susan’s shown no improvement. You and your boss and I have all reviewed Susan’s situation, and made the decision to fire the employee. Now you need to take the last step and tell her.”

… but doesn’t want to fire an employee

“But Susan is so … nice,” Carl said. “She’s got a good attitude. It just seems …”

“Are you going wobbly on me, Carl?” asked Marlene, smiling.

“No, it’s just I’ve got a lot of stuff on my plate and don’t have time for a long conversation,” said Carl. “Besides, I have to send Susan to HR so she can collect her pay, anyway. So you should be the one to fire the employee.”

“You’ve never done this before, have you?” asked Marlene.

“No, I’ve never had to fire an employee before” he said. “In fact, I’ve never even broken up with anyone. I married my first girlfriend.”

“All right, let me walk you through how to fire an employee,” said Marlene.

What advice what you give Carl in how to fire an employee?


Troubleshooter #1: Ken Fleming, Corporate ER/EEO Manager, Excel Corporation, Wichita, KS.
I would advise Carl that tone of voice is important. He should explain tactfully and nicely what policies the worker violated – and why he’s choosing to fire an employee. The manager shouldn’t sit there and reason with the worker or let it drag on because that could lead to an argument.

Troubleshooter #2: Anonymous HR director, Florida country club.
I would explain to the manager he’s not firing Susan because she’s nice, but because of the performance issues. That’s what the manager needs to explain to the worker when firing her; that it’s not personal. The manager should have made the worker aware of performance issues ahead of time and have documentation of warnings and disciplinary action so the decision to fire an employee isn’t a surprise.

Troubleshooter #3: Gary Schaefer, HR Manager, Peachtree Packaging, Inc., Lawrenceville, GA.
Carl should explain to Susan that she’s a nice person but she came up short in her job performance. I would advise Carl to have another manager in the room as a witness to who said what in case of legal matters. If the worker is just having trouble with her job, but otherwise has a good attitude and work ethic, then the manager can offer her something else in the company or a recommendation.

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