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The Right Way to Layoff Employees

written by: John Garger•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 1/11/2011

Firing an employees can be difficult with lot of legal, sociological, and psychological aspects. Learn some of the key elements involved when firing, terminating, or laying off an employee.

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    Aspects of Termination

    Termination of Employment Terminating or laying off employees is never simple; it is always hard whether it is the first time or the hundredth. Termination is stressful for multiple parties. Thus, managers must ensure a degree of professionalism when terminating employees.

    The three aspects of termination that need to be considered are legal, sociological, and psychological. The legal aspect involves the law and the necessity of maintaining proper documentation. The sociological aspect involves consideration of the impact of the employee’s termination on colleagues and other involved parties. The psychological aspect ensures that the terminated employee leaves the organization with dignity. This way, there is lesser chance of unwanted incidences.

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    Right Way of Termination

    To ensure a smooth termination of an employee, follow these steps:

    • Be precise: It is important to be objective and precise when firing an employee. With heightened pressure of work, it is important to base such decisions on facts rather than judgment or emotions. Moreover, the decision to terminate should not be taken individually by the employer or manager. The employer should consult other employees to ensure an unbiased view.
    • Communicate: The employer or manager must communicate with the employee from the beginning. It is best to make a decision over a period of time rather than at once. The expectations of the organization and personal issues need to be communicated. It is important to warn the employee before taking a step towards termination. If an employee is performing poorly, he or she should be warned before being laid off. Moreover, the organization should give a written warning at least ninety days in advance so that the employee can make other arrangements. Be proactive before such measures become necessary by documenting general expectations in an employee handbook.
    • Probation: All employees should enjoy a three to six month probation period to make it easier for them to understand the organization's policies and processes. This way, the employee loses less and expectations are lower if terminated during the probationary period.
    • Union: It is a good idea to work with a union when going through the process of firing an employee. Having the backing of the union ensures that no grievances are held against the company.
    • Preparation: Be prepared for a stressful meeting during the termination. Rehearse the conversation; make a note of all thoughts, etc. to reduce the likelihood of getting tongue-tied. All necessary legal and organization paperwork must be completed. In fact, getting assistance from a legal advisor can be helpful.
    • Timing: It is important to be sensitive to the timing of the meeting. The meeting should be conducted in private. Moreover, the employee must be terminated with dignity. The meeting location should be a neutral (but private) area like a conference room and not a personal office.
    • Honesty: Honesty is the best policy. It is advisable to be honest and straightforward rather than beating around the bush. Ideally, the termination should not be a surprise for the employee.
    • Anger Management: Control anger and never become aggressive. If you becomes belligerent, there is greater likelihood of the employee filing a lawsuit or grievance. Thus, it is advisable to be sympathetic to the feelings of the terminated employee.
    • Length of Termination Meeting: The duration of the termination meeting should not be long. There is absolutely no need for small talk. Be firm and assertive.
    • Listening Skills: Using lively and active listening skill; allow the employee to emit the frustration that they may be feeling because of the news. Once done, explain any benefits that the employee has coming.
    • Save the Reputation: It is important for employers and managers to save the reputation of the organization. While terminating an employee, create a bridge to the future. Employees can be sources of business in the future and, therefore, must leave the organization with dignity intact. The terminated employee should be given at least one chance to share his or her story. Moreover, the employer should make sure that the employee understands why the relationship did not work out and that the organization is grateful for their service.

    Just before making the decision to terminate, it is important for the employer to be sure that he or she is making the right decision. To be sure, follow some basic guidelines. Terminate an employee if:

    • He or she has violated any major organization rule or regulation multiple times
    • He or she is unable to perform and complete tasks efficiently
    • The organization is downsizing due to economic recession or other uncontrollable factors