When and How to Fire Someone

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Part of the experience of being a manager is having to fire an employee. So this morning we will look at when a manager should consider firing an employee and how to do it with tact and professionalism. Please note that this is not professional legal advice. Readers are cautioned to seek legal counsel prior to terminating employees.

Q: When should an employee be fired?

A: We are not dealing here with a downsizing, or if the employee has broken the law in which
case the firing is more straight forward. We are dealing with a situation where the manager feels that the employee is unable to meet the requirements of the job.
Because hiring and selection is expensive and time consuming, managers need to be reasonably certain that the employee is not able to perform what is required of them and that the manager has ruled out other possible solutions.

Q: What things should the manager have tried first, before firing?

A: The manager should have ruled out the four major reasons that impact employee performance: The first factor is knowledge and skill – has the employee been adequately trained to perform the job? The second factor is Motivation – is the employee motivated to do what is being asked of them? For this one we use the Gun to the Head test – just figuratively of course! If the employee can do what is required some times and not others, then the problem is likely motivation. The third factor is where there are factors on the job that prevent the employee from performing and the fourth factor is a lack of fit with the job in terms of personality, mental or physical ability.

Q: Okay, so the manager needs to be sure they have covered everything else and if they have it’s time to fire?

A: It is a good bet that if everything has been ruled out, the employee would be better off and the company or organization would be better off without them.

Q: So what is the approach?

A: In terms of timing, it is best to fire someone closer to the beginning of the week and near the beginning of the day. This is so that the person can go and get the information they need about unemployment and develop a game plan to find new employment.

Q: Should the manager tell the person why they are being fired?

A: Usually the answer to this is no, unless the manager has good documentation for firing with cause. This is very rare. To make a case for cause, the manager has to show that the employee was warned that they may be fired and given adequate time to correct performance problems. There usually has to be a progression of consequences from a verbal warning to a written warning to suspension and finally discharge.

So the manager needs to notify the person that their employment is being terminated in writing. Any vacation pay owing needs to be paid and pay in lieu of notice is given.

The manager needs to make sure that they remain calm and ideally a second person should be
present to act as a witness.

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