You’re fired! How should leaders sack an employee?

It’s a scenario that many managers dread, and perhaps with good reason. It can end in tears, tempers and, if you get it wrong, a costly employment tribunal. Sacking a member of staff is never going to be pleasant, but it’s a necessary part of the job when you’re a manager. So, what is the right way to do it?

Before it even reaches that point, it’s necessary for managers to address problems when they start to emerge. They must resist the temptation to do nothing. Generally speaking there are two things that come into play,” he explains. First, good old human nature means none of us look forward to dealing with what we see as a difficult situation. And secondly, I have a feeling – this is based on managers I’ve spoken to over the years – they feel that the pendulum has swung towards the employee and it’s going to cause them great difficulty and legal challenges. From the beginning, the manager is going to look for reasons how they can avoid confronting an employee.

If someone is frequently turning up to work late or there are inaccuracies in their work, for example, tackle the issue early on. There is no point in confronting an employee about something that happened months ago. They should describe the problem to the employee and be as specific as possible in the detail, then explain the impact of their behaviour and how it needs to change. By talking specifics it stops it becoming personal. You’ve got to be absolutely clear about what you expect from them, and clear about the consequences. Generally a lot of employees wake up and do something about it.

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The manager should be dealing with the issue at this early stage, rather than human resources It’s easier for a manager to say, ‘I’ve noticed in the last couple of days you’ve come in late’, than someone in human resources saying, ‘I hear you’ve been coming in late’. I don’t think managers should be on the phone to HR every time they speak to an employee about their performance.

However, if the problems persist, there’s a clear legal process that must be followed. A meeting will be arranged, and the employee should be told beforehand what it is about. When breaking the news, be sensitive about the timing. Leaving someone hanging over the weekend is not the way to do it.Leaving people on a Friday with that news is bad.

Company Shortcuts, cautions against letting the meeting go on for too long. Keep it short; it may seem painful but the more the conversation about ‘why are you getting rid of me’ is dragged out, the more it can get into deep water. It’s relatively cold but someone doesn’t get to dismissal because they’re a shining light, they’ve had all the warnings by now.

What if someone responds badly? One response is ‘you’re being unfair’. I say, ‘Let’s recap the warnings you’ve had, let’s look at your performance’. Be firm but fair, and don’t drag it out.So what are the biggest no-nos when it comes to sacking someone? “Publicly, insensitively and on your own.

Be careful about the way you begin the meeting and adopt an appropriate tone. It should be a conversation, a two-way dialogue, rather than a telling off. If tempers flare, the manager must remain calm and refuse to be drawn into a slanging match. “Words said in those conditions can’t be taken back. It is good management to make sure tempers are kept civilised.

Giving the person chance to vent their anger can actually be a good thing. Sometimes, it’s important to let the employee express the emotion, it could be difficult for them to listen to anyone else until they get it off their chest. Have a quick break if tempers need to be cooled. Should a manager be sympathetic? Be empathetic to a point, but don’t be emotional.

I generally find people are stoic in the meeting. Very often they’re aware of the seriousness of the situation and it’s a mutual agreement. However, when that person is down the pub with their colleagues, there’s a danger that the version of events can get distorted. Briggs advises telling staff why the person was let go. Keep the team informed. You don’t want them to think you are slashing staff. Make sure they know that person was let go for the benefit of the company and the team.

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