Terminating Employees

A New Look at Approaches and Alternatives

Termination of employment can be used as a negative consequence, a threat and even as a power statement. This should not be the case. Termination could be and should be the outcome of a carefully considered, fully discussed, participative process.

What are some of the reasons termination may be the outcome?

  • The employee is not a fit for the position.
  • The employee is not able to meet the outlined or required expectations of the position.
  •  The employee has not taken the steps required in the progressive discipline process.
  • The employer and employee agree that the position is not meeting mutual goals and expectations.

Stages in the Process

Employers today want to be proactive in preventing termination and be strategic in planning the process which leads to termination. Indeed, there is a proactive stage, an active stage, and a follow-up stage. Employers want to ensure that they engage in all of these stages:

Stage 1- Proactive Stage:

·       Ensure clear job expectations.

·       Provide an adequate probationary period.

·       Carry out a clear discussion of employee’s rights and responsibilities.

·       Set specific time frames to provide evaluative feedback.

Stage 2 – Active Stage:

·       Meet regularly with the employee to provide evaluative feedback.

·       Ensure that employer/employee outcomes include a balance of strengths, successes, and areas requiring improvement or development.

·       End each discussion with an action plan and specific date for review.

·       At the end of each discussion outline the possible outcomes including termination.

·       Use the specific dates and action plan to springboard the progressive discussions.

·       Clearly outline the progress made and the progress needed.

·       Clarify that there will be opportunities given to make required adjustments.

·       Document all discussions and provide copies to the employee and maintain copies for future reference.

·       When the third discussion occurs, refer back to each previous discussion.

·       When improvements have not been made and expectations have not been mutually addressed, outline the specifics of termination: dates and times; follow-up required; and options/resources available.

Stage 3 – Follow-up:

·       Check in with the terminated employee to provide support for follow-up activities.

·       Remind the employee of available resources.

·       Offer to provide final feedback, which focuses on strengths and strategies for moving ahead.

Termination is not always a negative action. It’s often the best decision for the employee and the employer. However, that may not always be the feeling in the moment. Use your progressive process to support you in assessing your decision and supporting your action.

Steps in a Formal Process

Some organizations want to follow a more formal process for termination in which the following steps are necessary:

Step 1 – Verbal feedback is required to ensure that the employee knows what expectations are not being met and how to meet them. This feedback will be given in conversational format with a follow-up email to ensure understanding.

Step 2 – Written feedback is provided in response to a persistent problem or ongoing lack of response to the verbal feedback. This written warning must include a follow-up email to the employee and documentation for the employee’s file. This written warning will include an action plan with time frames for improvement or development. It will also describe the possible outcome of termination.

Step 3 – Final written feedback is given to address performance that has not improved. A shorter timeframe must be given in which the employee must achieve the desired improvement or face termination.

Step 4 – A termination review is undertaken during which time the employer outlines the termination process and ensures that there is shared understanding of the process that has been completed.

Step 5 – Termination of the employee is based on completion of the progressive discipline process and shared documentation.

Activities After Termination

What are some of the things to keep in mind once an employee is terminated?

·       Is there a contractual relationship that must be addressed?

·       Should the employee be given notice or asked to leave immediately?

·       Should the employer provide any follow-up resources to the employee?

·       Should the employer provide referrals for support?

·       How should the termination be announced to other employees?

Even after a termination, employers today want to look forward to preventing negative interaction and possible future terminations. Performance issues are often related to three factors: 1) The skills necessary to perform the job; 2) The clarity and understanding of expectations or the requirements of the job; and 3) The suitability of the employee to the job.

Some approaches to addressing these factors are:

·       Providing training and coaching – skill development can overcome many barriers to improving job performance.

·       Setting clear and well defined goals for performance improvement – put a plan in place to achieve goals. A performance improvement plan ensures that goals, actions and timelines are clearly defined in writing and that the action plan is both understood and agreed upon by employees and employer.

·       Making adjustments to the job, role or position – poor job performance is often related to the employee being a poor fit for the particular role he is in. More simply, there may even be parts of the job that are a poor fit. Yet there may be parts of the job where the employee excels. This can sometimes be overcome with adjustments to the role, a job change, a workload shift or reduction, even reassignment or redeployment.

Indeed, the decision to terminate an employee could be the outcome of a carefully considered, fully discussed, participative process. Alternatively, could creative, alternative approaches lead to more positive outcomes for your organization?

Brenda Robinson is principal of the Robcan Group and can be reached at 780-467-4112.