Deciding to terminate the employment relationship is one of the most difficult responsibilities managers have. Knowledge of the law and of best practices, as well as training, can help a manager end the relationship on a constructive note. Working with HR staff, managers must acquire the appropriate knowledge and receive skills training to make these important decisions and to conduct professional termination meetings.
If you find yourself considering involuntary termination, make sure you have taken the following steps first to support the employee’s success:
- Met regularly with the employee to make sure he or she knew what was expected—in specific, behavior-based language—and the consequences for failing to meet expectations
- Applied performance and behavioral standards consistently
- Based performance feedback and corrective counseling on facts and circumstances
- Verified that the written feedback provided in the employee’s performance appraisal is consistent with the verbal feedback given in performance discussions
- Documented the dates you met with the employee to discuss performance, as well as the substance of those conversations
- Provided opportunity for the employee to explain his or her “side of the story,” as well as to correct poor performance and/or inappropriate behavior
- Consulted with HR to ensure the performance/behavioral data you have gathered (together with the results of any formal investigation) and the resulting corrective counseling/discipline is consistent with your organization’s policies, procedures, and practices
- Consulted with legal counsel to ensure the resulting corrective counseling/discipline (including termination) complies with applicable federal and state laws
Involuntary termination decisions must be made objectively, supported by legitimate business reasons, and based on job-based criteria that are applied consistently. To ensure objectivity, you should take time before making a decision to check yourself and your own motivations. Speaking with another manager or with your HR representative can help to ensure that your evaluation of the situation is based on verifiable facts and not on your personal feelings (alone). Taking time to reflect on your decision is time well spent. Having an independent third-party review your documentation and stated reasons for termination is always a good precaution. The ramifications of an involuntary termination are too serious to do otherwise.