Notice – There are often legal ramifications to any layoff or firing of employees. This article does not claim to provide an expert legal opinion. Please check with appropriate experts, government officials or your lawyer to learn the legal impact of your decisions regarding human resources.
Most employers loath firing anyone. Of all the difficult decisions that owners have to make, laying off or firing an employee causes the most stress and heartache. The following is only an introduction to how to reduce stress. You will often want to reach out to other resources to learn more.
First of all, let’s make the distinction between laying off and firing. It
matters to both you and the employee.
When you lay off someone, you are saying to them and to the government, that you don’t have enough work for this person. Then they become eligible for unemployment benefits. Various states and localities have various rules. Be aware of the rules before you lay someone off.
Firing is when you let someone go even if you plan to retire or move another employee into that position. In many states, you can fire regardless of your cause (“at-will” rules). You don’t even have to state it. However, you can’t fire someone or lay them off either in a way that is discriminatory.
HOW TO FIRE ANY EMPLOYEE
Let’s divide this discussion into two groups:
LIKE THE PERSON, BUT THEY AREN’T EVER GOING TO PERFORM;
DON’T LIKE THE PERSON AND THEY MAY OR MAY NOT BE GOOD AT THE JOB.
In each case, it is better to build a file, over at least weeks if not months, that indicates the details where you or staff and the employee have discussed any issues regarding their employment. Formal, signed statements with warnings are really good. Again, in many states, these aren’t required, but they will help if the employee files a discrimination claim.
If you like the employee, conduct an exit interview. You can assume that once they know that the meeting is about letting them go, that they will be itching to leave ASAP. However, it is possible to keep them engaged by clearly indicating your desire to help them.
The two ways you are going to help them is to state that you really like them and think highly of their capabilities, but that this was not a good fit. You honestly believe that they will easily find a position that they will like better and that will pay them more. For additional help, you can explain the reason for your ultimate decision in a way that is thoughtfully constructive.
You might want to ask the employee’s opinion about the company, their boss or even your management. Whether you ask for their opinion might depend on the mood in the room at the time, but such a conversation can be very helpful to them and to you.
Done well, the employee can now leave with their head held high and with determination to move on, even if they are concerned about the potential loss of income.
If you don’t like the employee and feel they have been a poor performer regardless of their aptitude, just explain that after two warnings, you have decided to make a change. Have their final check in your hand to reduce the time they need to hang around.
LAYOFFS WITH HEART
It is possible to reduce the impact to your staff when a layoff is necessary.
Step 1. Determine how many total hours you need to cut.
Step 2. If the layoff is across multiple jobs are departments, further determine how many hours from each.
Step 3. Make a careful review of your total staff. It is likely that at least 20% are underperforming. Fire or layoff those first.
Step 4. Find out if you have any employees who are willing to take a voluntary layoff.
Step 5. If you still need more trimming, ask each department to take a vote among the employees as to whether they would rather all take fewer hours or just proceed with a normal layoff.
Be straight up with any solid employees whom you must lay off. Let them know if you consider them to be valuable and intend to rehire them as soon as possible.
If you are seasonal and find yourself in a position where you commonly have to lay off people during slow times, you may want to switch to temporary workers. It makes everything so much easier: Finding people, laying off quickly, and reducing the pain for everyone.
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