Terminating an Employee for Cause

Julie Shenkman
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As a human resources professional, terminating employees is likely one of your most difficult tasks, but it is necessary if you want the best employees working for your company. If you have to terminate an employee for cause, it's important to document the process and take steps to prevent post-termination outbursts in the workplace. If you are responsible for firing employees, follow these tips to ensure a smooth transition.

The most important thing to do when terminating employees is plan ahead. You shouldn't fire an employee while he is sitting at his desk or operating a piece of machinery on the factory floor. Instead, you should have a meeting to discuss the employee's performance issues and let him know you can no longer tolerate his poor performance. Use a neutral location, such as a conference room or an unoccupied break room. Terminating employees should not take any longer than 15 minutes, so don't let the meeting drag on for 30 minutes or more.

The risk of a lawsuit is always a concern when terminating employees, so make sure you have all the documentation you need to fire an employee for cause. If you are terminating the employee for absenteeism, for example, the employee's file should contain several written warnings regarding missed work time. If your company has a formal performance improvement process, then the file should also contain a copy of the worker's signed performance improvement plan. Make sure you have documentation to back up the assertion that the employee did not meet the goals outlined in the PIP.

Experts often disagree on the right time for terminating employees. Some say to terminate on Friday afternoons so you can start fresh on Monday, but doing so leaves the employee without any HR support during this time of transition. If you terminate employees on a Tuesday or Wednesday, that gives them several days to contact human resources about COBRA coverage, rolling over retirement accounts and other issues. Whatever you do, don't fire employees during peak work times and then force them to walk through a crowd of their former colleagues.

Terminating employees is not easy, even when you are doing it for cause. That's why it is important to prepare yourself for how the terminated employee might react. Some employees cry or plead for more chances, while others demand to talk to company executives or behave in an angry manner. Remember that you are there to represent the best interests of the company, not the terminated employee. It's okay to be compassionate, but you shouldn't give the employee another chance if you've already gone through a performance improvement plan with no sign of progress. You should also have security standing by in case the employee reacts by making threats or getting belligerent.

Firing employees is never pleasant, but it can be done in a way that protects your company and allows the terminated employee to maintain his dignity. Make terminating employees easier by planning ahead, ensuring you have appropriate documentation of their performance issues and preparing yourself for how a terminated employee might react.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



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