Getting Fired Up! Termination is NOT the End of the World

Posted by Joseph Sherren on November 4, 2013

It seems like every few years we go through a time when people must be terminated from their jobs. Yes, we are talking about firing for cause, “right-sizing, “restructuring”, “downsizing”, etc..

Whatever you call it, it never feels good for the individual involved or for the manager. Terminating an employee (for whatever reason) is one of the most painful and emotionally draining experiences that a manager must do.

In my past position as senior manager at a large corporation I found myself in that situation many times. I discovered that it got easier over time because of the direct feedback I received from the individuals who I helped move on. I found that the majority ended up much happier, more successful, less stressed, making more money and working at something for which they truly had a passion. Many of them even contacted me to say “thank you” for doing them a favour.

I remember one individual who was just not a good fit with either the job or the culture of the organization. He begged me to give him yet another chance. However, I knew it would not work in the long term and I would not be doing him justice to keep him in a job where he was not happy nor productive. I also had a responsibility to not waste the company’s resources,so I terminated his employment with our firm.

Five years later, he came back to visit me. He was now the owner of a landscaping and snow removal firm and had just won a major contract with our firm. He was now worth over a million dollars. More importantly, he could not stop smiling; he was so happy.

If you find yourself in the situation of being terminated, make the most of the situation. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Stay calm: prepare yourself and make a “go forward” plan. This will keep you from doing or saying something you might regret.
  • Be professional: This will go a long way in helping you get a reference from your manager.
  • Maintain an up to date resume: It is much easier to do when you are not emotional and feeling less confident in yourself.
  • Engage in on-going personal education and training. People who invest in their own development always go to the front of the line.
  • Make a long term plan: Create a vision of where you would like to be five years from today. List the skills you bring to a future employer and ask your current peers why they would want you on their team. (Hint: If you are uncomfortable with this tip, it may be a sign you do not fit.)

As managers, you can also help. If you sincerely care for others and want the very best for them, the transition will go much easier.

  • Be straight up and let the employee know a soon as possible when you see a negative trend and are required to intervene on a regular basis regarding their performance or attitude.
  • Give them some time off to consider their options and look for other opportunities. However, do not drag the process out. Thirty days is normally sufficient time for a person to decide if they are really able (or want) to turn things around.
  • During this time if they engage in inappropriate behavior which is disruptive to the rest of the staff you must deal with it immediately. They should understand that under no circumstances will this be tolerated and dismissal will be immediate.
  • Keep a written record of the times you meet with them, the dates and what was discussed.
  • Maintain their dignity. Focus on specific behaviors and job requirements. You may even give them a list of behaviors you find unacceptable and tell them exactly what they need to do to maintain their job.
  • Do not allow discussion that is not directly related to the issues of performance or relevant behavior.

Other guidelines to consider:

  • It is best not to fire someone on a Friday afternoon.
  • Get their keys and badge and escort them from the office immediately.
  • Notify other employees right away. Tell them that the employee no longer works for the company (but avoid giving details). This is a private matter.
  • Reassign the terminated employee’s job duties promptly. Firing an employee is tough, but it has to be done. You have a duty to yourself, your business and the other employees who are contributing positively to the productivity, customer satisfaction and culture of the organization. I discovered long ago that it is a great disservice (mostly to the individual themselves) to put off the inevitable. You are holding them back from discovering the next exciting and challenging phase of their life.

My question for managers this week: “What process, training, and support do you have when it becomes necessary to terminate?”



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