Firing Employees

By | May 21, 2002

Based on New Jersey Law

One of the biggest challenges manufacturers face is dealing with employees who are dishonest, non-team players or poor performers. At some point, after unsuccessfully training, coaching and trying to change the employee’s behavior, the relationship between the staff member and the company must cease.

This process is difficult for managers for several reasons;
several reasons; most lie on the “human side of “human relations.” For some managers, admitting that an employee has not met expectations signals some kind of failure for the manager. Could you have been so desperate to fill the position that you did not see the potential problems during the interview or when you checked the references?

Other managers blame themselves for a staff member’s failure, and are willing to do almost anything to insure the employee’s success.

In today’s tight labor market, many managers continue to put time, money and energy into marginal staff members because they fear they won’t be able to find more competent ones.

Many managers resist terminating employees, fearing wrongful termination or discrimination lawsuits.

The costs of keeping poorly performing employees are significant. The direct costs include lost sales, customer dissatisfaction and damage to your reputation.

Other staff members begin to resent the poor performer and the additional responsibilities they must assume in response. At best, morale in the company erodes; at worst, great employees begin to model the behavior or performance level that they perceive is the new company standard. They too become poor performers.

Employees who contribute the least are the ones that require the most supervision, training and coaching. Managers must spend time solving the problems linked to poor performers. When this happens, the rest of the staff receives less feedback and training from their supervisors.

Performance standards must be explicit to insure that employees understand their responsibilities, roles within the company and employer’s expectations. Written job descriptions and policy manuals are important tools for developing a highly motivated, well-trained, professional staff.

Develop a schedule for supervisors to meet with their direct reports to discuss the employee’s progress in meeting goals.

Begin meeting with staff members early in the training process so that deficiencies are detected quickly. Measure the employee’s performance relative to the job description for the position. Document areas in which the employee excels and in which improvement is needed. Keep copies of the progress reports in personnel files.

Although the best way to avoid the termination trap is better hiring, there are no guarantees in screening for the perfect employees. Sometimes, despite all the training, coaching and discipline, an employee may fail to meet expectations. And sometimes business conditions are such that termination is necessary, and good employees must be fired. When this happens, the fastest end to the relationship is the fairest to both the
staff member and the company.

A well-prepared termination-plan helps avoid lawsuits and discrimination claims from former employees.

Insure that you have one valid business reason for the termination. Meet with supervisors or your attorney to review documentation about the employee’s performance to insure that you separate emotions from facts. Be prepared to tell the employee the specific policy violation or performance deficiency for which they are being fired.

Prepare for the interview. Complete any necessary forms, documents or termination reports, as well as the final paycheck. Decide where and when you will conduct the meeting. There is no best time to fire an employee, but seek a time when you can meet uninterrupted and privately. If you anticipate an emotional or violent reaction, or that the employee may seek retribution in some way, have a witness present during the interview.

Tell the employee about the meeting you have scheduled. If possible, hold it as quickly as possible. If you have been meeting with the employee to discuss performance already, the termination interview should not be a total surprise, and he or she should not feel ambushed.

Tell the employee the truth about the reason for termination. Stick to the one valid business reason on which you based the decision. Be concise, be tactful, and avoid emotion or personal attacks on the individual. Make the decision final, and make no promises for the future.

Discuss severance pay, benefits and your policy for future reference checks, which might only include the dates of employment. Give the employee the final paycheck and the appropriate COBRA forms should they elect to continue any applicable insurance coverage. Make arrangements for returning company property. Finally, you may need to tell others in the company about the termination. Keep the reasons for the termination confidential. Tell only necessary employees that their colleague is “no longer with the company.” Other staff members may need the information to adjust their schedules, complete unfinished projects or assume additional responsibilities. Keep communication with your current employees open, and let them know that you value their contributions.

Author: Bruce E. Gudin, Esq

Bruce E. Gudin, Esq. is a Partner with the firm of Levy, Ehrlich & Petriello, P.C.headquartered in Newark, New Jersey. He can be reached at (973) 643-0040, ext. 104 or by e-mail at [email protected].

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *