Firing an employee is never an easy task, however there are certain mistakes you can make which can land your company in hot water. Read the list below of 13 of the most common mistakes managers make when terminating an employee.
- Acting in the moment. Don’t let your emotions make your decisions. Firing an employee immediately when you’re upset or angry will likely cloud your judgment. You should take time to calm down – send the employee home if necessary – and meet with the employee once you are prepared to have a professional meeting.
- Lack of documentation. The importance of documentation cannot be stressed enough! Documentation is the main defense your company has in the event of a future lawsuit. For tips on documentation, check on this previous blog post: A Managers Guide to Employee Documentation.
- Retaliation. Retaliation occurs when an adverse action (such as demotion or termination) is taken against an employee after the employee makes a complaint such as harassment or discrimination. Retaliation is illegal. The EEOC has recently published new guidance on retaliation, you can read more about that here.
- Talking too much during the termination meeting. Termination meetings should be short and to the point. Let the employee know the reason for termination, discuss any open items such as final pay, returning company equipment or termination of employee benefits, and escort the employee to collect their personal belongings and exit the building.
- Not saying enough in the termination meeting. While most states (all but Minnesota) are at will employment states, meaning that employment can be terminated by either the employer or employee at any time and for any reason, it is in your best interest to give the employee the truthful reason for termination. Whether or not the employee agrees with the reason, they may be less likely to bring a wrongful termination suit against you or a claim of discrimination or retaliation if they know the reason for termination.
- Not having a witness present during the termination meeting. You should always have a witness present as this person’s testimony can avoid a “he said, she said” situation in the future
- Discussing the termination with other employees. For obvious reasons, only employees who need to know should be informed of the impending termination. After the termination occurs, all employees can be notified that the employee is no longer with the company but no further details or explanation should be provided.
- Not being consistent. Employees should all be treated fairly in order to avoid claims of discrimination based on a protected class.
- Waiting too long to terminate. There should be a minimal lapse in time between the reason for termination and when the actual termination occurs. Many courts and unemployment judges have questioned the validity of the reason for termination when there is a large gap of time between when the final incident occurred and when the employee was actually let go.
- Not preparing for coverage of workload after the termination. Keep in mind that this employee’s responsibilities will still need to be taken care of after the termination. This is another reason you don’t want to act in the moment (see #1 above). Will you hire a replacement or split the responsibilities among the remaining employees? This should be decided prior to the termination to be sure there is a minimal impact on the business.
- Arguing with the employee. There is no reason to argue with the employee. They may, understandably, get upset or angry, but you should either let them vent for a moment or stop them immediately and let them know that the decision has been made and is final.
- Involving your feelings in the termination meeting. Stick to the facts and don’t let the employee know how bad you feel for having to terminate them. This turns the focus of the meeting to you and your feelings. The employee doesn’t care how hard this is for you and it’s unnecessary to mention it.
- Surprising the employee. Other than a lay off or company closure, employees generally should always know ahead of time , through previous warnings, performance reviews or counseling sessions, that termination will be occurring.
You may also be interested in reading our other blog posts regarding termination:
- You’re Fired! Not so fast! Know the Risks Associated with Terminating an Employee for Poor Performance
- Nine Ways to Avoid Wrongful Discharge