Management

The Fine Art of Firing Problem Employees: 5 Suggestions

April 17, 2015

TerminationThere may be some sadistic types out there who actually enjoy firing people, however most of us don’t look forward to such acts. Certainly if an employee has stolen from our CNC shop or committed an egregious act we’re less likely to feel bad about the firing. Most of the time, though, we have to let people go because their performance isn’t up to standards or their behavior is disruptive. Regardless, firing is stressful, painful and could come back to haunt us if done improperly. So here are 5 important considerations when it’s time to pull the plug:

  1. No surprises. There are a number of good reasons to avoid firing an employee: It’s disruptive to workflow, it’s costly to replace them, new hires need training, and it may hurt overall morale. So it behooves us make sure an underperforming employee is given the opportunity and guidance to improve before being terminated. In the case of behavioral issues, give fair warnings that attitudes and actions must be improved. In both cases document these activities and make it clear that failure to improve or comply within a specified time will lead to dismissal. This way you’re being fair to the employee and they won’t feel blindsided if let go.
  2. Do it face-to-face. It’s never pleasant to give an employee the bad news, but it’s best to do so in person. If you’re the senior executive or owner of your CNC shop, don’t delegate the deed to a supervisor or other underling. Of course you should have the supervisor present if the employee does not report directly to you, but your presence eliminates any doubt that the decision is final. In this digital age some employers actually fire people via phone, email or even by texting. Don’t be that person. Even problem employees should be treated as human beings. Not only is it the decent thing to do, but it also sends a message to your other employees that you respect them.
  3. Protect yourself and the company. Even if he or she knows otherwise, there is always the chance that a fired employee will sue for unfair termination. That’s why it’s vitally important to document any performance or behavioral issues that lead to the termination, as well as any attempts to correct the situation such as coaching, retraining and warnings. At the time of the firing, you should have at least two management people in the room to verify the process. Finally, do not make the reasons for terminating the employee personal. You can simply point to your documentation of your attempts to help or correct the employee, and the warnings issued as evidence that he or she does not meet your performance standards, and that you hope they find another position that better suits them.
  4. Secure all company owned items. If the employee has keys to the shop, a phone, notebook or computer, or any other company items ask for them during the termination meeting. If the items are elsewhere in the workplace, have someone accompany the employee to retrieve them while, at the same time, verifying that the employee leaves with only personal possessions. If the employee is too distraught to take personal items with them, tell them you will have them collected and sent to the employee’s home. Also, have the employee’s final paycheck ready when they leave. The goal is to eliminate any need for the employee to return to the workplace and adversely affect overall morale.
  5. Terminate digital access. Disgruntled former employees can create problems if they have access to company email, internal networks (engineering drawings, CAD/CAM files, customer data), and other IT platforms. Depending on the fired employee’s role, you may need to change some user names and passwords also. All of this, of course, should be in place at the time of the employee’s termination.