If you manage people for any length of time, it is likely that, at some stage, you might have given someone a termination letter. It might be because they aren’t performing to your expectations; recession; because you no longer need their role performed; or because they’ve breached a company policy. Firing someone is often as devastating for the person terminating as the one being terminated. So, then, how do you attempt to make the process easier and less traumatic for both parties?
Towards the exit door
Day in and day out, the work gets done. But what if it doesn’t? What if an employee suddenly just stops performing? It is important to understand the reason for the drop in productivity. The reasons could be many; it could be a death in the family, an illness, a broken relationship, mid-life crisis etc. Hence, a one-to-one interaction with the employee is important to understand the reason.
Performance is linked with intrinsic as well as extrinsic factors. So if an employee stops performing, why not try to understand and address the possible impediments through counselling sessions.
A sudden fall in performance is the first signal of an employees’ disengagement either with work or the organisation and calls for immediate introspection. It is important to catch such signals and have immediate discussions with the employee to identify the disturbing factors and immediately take corrective measures to help overcome those.
Setting them free…
Is bad performance the only reason for asking employees to quit? On what basis is the decision to show the employee the door made? Hire and fire is not always on the priority list of the company, unless the employee is being asked to leave on integrity issues. The usual reason for asking employees to leave is below par performance. In case the employee is lacking in performance and shows no signs of improvement, he/she is pink slipped. Consistent non-performance, disciplinary issues like non-compliance to company policy and integrity related issues may lead to the termination of an employee.
Unintentional mistakes are tolerable, but intentional blunders which have a devastating impact on the company’s reputation, image or bottom-line are not. If there is no remarkable improvement even after providing the required support, counseling or mentoring, the employee gets identified for termination.
Similarly, any willful action on the part of employee contrary to critical aspects of defined code of conduct like core values, matters of national interest/regulatory compliance, health and safety norms, ethical codes of conduct, concurrent employment, security of confidential information, taking and/or giving bribe will also get the employee identified for termination.
Unless the termination is over an integrity issue, firing an employee is no longer considered a reflection of his/her inabilities. Several employees who have been asked to leave on performance grounds have done exceedingly well in other organisations. The employee must be given clear reasons as to why they are being asked to leave. It is a well known fact that every employee is a brand ambassador of the company; hence firing should be done with dignity and compassion.
Generally one verbal warning is given, one written warning, and then eventually the services are terminated of the employee if no change is seen. While terminating, any explanations regarding the reasons behind the termination should be explicitly stated. The final communication to the employee is done in a professional manner as it helps prevent any bitterness.
The ideal way of firing is by being honest, fair and transparent. It does happen that some employees who have been in the organisation for many years stop performing. They do not upgrade their skill sets and hence are not able to deal with global changes that are happening on a very regular basis. Asking such an employee to leave is undoubtedly the most daunting task. Good training, change of roles and counselling does help to a certain extent. As these employees have been in the system for a long time, they can be assets in the right department. Firing should only be done when there is no other option left and is considered as a last straw.
Non-performance among old employees is a possibility only when complacency creeps into the system. Believe in maintaining a work environment which is highly performance driven. If such cases occur, job rotation and/or a fixed time to show improvement under close monitoring.
HR interventions ranging from reinforcing and effectively communicating expectations from employees and enlightening them as to how their company’s performance and growth has deteriorated over the years will help. Initiating effective employee engagement programs will certainly help re-build the lost enthusiasm and commitment back among the employees. A ‘Voluntary Retirement Scheme’ is also an option for some employees who have stopped performing.
Together we stand
Many a times, an organisation faces situations where there is immediate need to cut down costs and also reduce the employee number. How do organisations handle this? Firing or ‘de-hiring’ is common when there are mergers and acquisitions, cutting down of costs, etc. The companies, therefore, have a lot to lose, especially their reputation if it is not done in a planned way. In such situations, companies do take extra care while ‘de-hiring’ employees for whom they cannot find roles in line with their roles.