5 tips to make firing an employee less stressful

What’s the best way to fire an employee? There may be no way to make the process painless since getting fired or firing someone else is incredibly stressful.

In fact, being fired is one of the most stressful life events that a person can encounter. While the difficulty of being fired is well-acknowledged, the people doing the firing feel the pressure too.

Here are 5 ways you can make the process of firing an employee less stressful for everyone involved.

1. Have the conversation face-to-face

There are things you can’t do via email, text or phone call and firing an employee is definitely one of them. Though it may be tempting to avoid conflict by firing someone remotely, this is ultimately unfair to the person being terminated and can cause other current employees to lose respect or trust for the company.

Treating the employee being fired with dignity and respect will go a long way to alleviating some of the stress they will inevitably feel at being terminated.

2. Give the employee prior warning if possible

Tennessee is an “employment-at-will” state, which means you can fire an employee, or quit your job, at any time without giving notice or a reason for the discharge of employment.

However, the only thing worse than being fired is being fired without warning or being given a reason. The uncertainty surrounding being terminated without cause or reason can compound the stress of the event.

Again, this comes down to treating the person being fired fairly. This will ultimately reflect better on your business with current and prospective employees than taking advantage of so-called “fire-at-will” laws.

Give employees warnings about poor performance and try to remedy the situation before jumping straight to termination. Keep in mind that the average cost-per-hire is more than $4,000.

3. Document everything

Keeping detailed records of employee performance is good for your business so you can make sure everyone is in the right job, but it can also help in the firing process.

Even though Tennessee is an “employment-at-will” state, employees can still claim wrongful termination after they are fired if they believe they were fired due to discrimination or in violation of state law.

Documenting employee performance can illustrate issues that led to termination and protect your business from being liable for back pay, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and more.

4. Get a witness in the room

Having a witness in the room, preferably someone from the HR department, will also go a long way to protecting your business against any bad actions by disgruntled former employees. This witness can help you if you aren’t sure what to say next, make sure everyone acts professionally and serve as another voice backing you up.

If you don’t have an HR department your witness can be anyone you trust to act objectively, professionally and discreetly.

If you’re afraid the employee might become violent, having a police officer on standby or in the room as a witness is a good idea. This will hopefully stop any problems before they begin.

5. Communicate with other employees

How you act after you fire an employee can be even more important than the act itself for keeping the trust of your employees. Once someone has been fired, rumors and fear often spread among remaining employees, particularly if the firing was unexpected.

Rather than keeping your employees in the dark, communicate with them about what happened to clear up any miscommunications. You don’t need to spill all the dirty secrets about why the employee was fired. Acknowledge what happened and invite employees to ask questions. Answer what you can while remaining discrete about sensitive details.

Firing an employee is stressful for everyone involved, and the hiring process can be even more so. Click here to read some tips for filling open positions with great candidates.

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