Advice on Firing Team Members

The process of letting a team member go is uncomfortable and upsetting. However there are a few guidelines that can help soften the blow called the five Ws – who, what, when, where and why:

Start with who – think about the team member and what you know about them. Be sure to empathize with their personality: this helps you to feel secure, as well as putting your team member at ease and making them feel less like a disposable entity.

“Remain in control of the conversation at all times.”

What is important in determining the questions that will inevitably arise. What is your team member going to say and feel? What tone will you speak in? There are many whats that can be addressed – the more you consider before the meeting, the lower the chance you will be thrown off guard.

When you choose to carry out the termination is also very important. Morning, afternoon or evening and day of the week can affect the situation. The end of the day may seem the best choice, however, sometimes a team member can feel resentful that you knew what was coming the whole day and allowed them to carry on with their work regardless. Consider each situation independently.

Selecting the where is also a key factor. Choosing a conference room may feel less threatening than asking the team member into your office, but may mean that the team member has to walk through common areas afterwards. You may want to offer them the chance to return at a more discreet time to retrieve their personal belongings.

Why is crucial. Have clear, solid and succinct reasons for the termination ready at hand. Be attentive and listen actively to responses, however, remain in control of the conversation at all times. Be empathetic but not sympathetic, and do not offer apologies, false hope or future promises. The termination should not be up for debate. Allow time for responses, but do not hand the team member the conversational lead.

Always take time after the meeting to reflect and record the events – this information can help you better prepare for the future and you never know when it may be called upon in the unfortunate instance of a potential lawsuit. There can be major pitfalls to incorrectly dismissing a staff member. Often it can be a legal minefield if strict procedures aren’t followed. Please seek appropriate advice at the time you decide that action needs to be taken.

If you are yet to implement a personnel development system in your organization, this might be the right time to contact us for assistance. We have a number of resources specifically designed for SMEs and would be delighted to help you with implementing systemized recruitment, induction and appraisal procedures that can result in better productivity for your firm.

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