It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in business – disciplining or firing an employee presents its challenges. You might get more comfortable with it in general, but it doesn’t eliminate the stress that can come with knowing you have to deliver bad news. Plus, there’s the added level of pressure on the situation related to potential lawsuits from the employee. Because of this, it’s important to go into that meeting prepared. Here’s what you need to do.
1. Verify Everything
This is not the time to assume the information is correct or that you know the policy. Confirm everything you learned with the sources and witnesses first and document their statements to make sure there’s a record of what occurred.
Next, compare what happened to the policies in your employee handbook. Check your records to confirm the employee received a copy of the book and was aware of the policies. With this information, you can determine the action needed based on what is written.
2. Check Previous Performance Reports
If this isn’t the first time, you want to see what he or she has done and the steps that were taken. This will help you determine what action is the next step, whether it involves further discipline or termination.
3. Assemble and Schedule Everything
Find a witness and schedule a meeting for the three of you. Make sure all the required documents have been printed and created, so the employee can sign anything that’s necessary. Find a quiet and private meeting space so other people can’t snoop around and find out what’s going on.
4. Take a Moment to Calm Down
Disciplinary action and termination aren’t decisions that you make lightly, and they can take an emotional toll. Give yourself time between preparing everything and the meeting just to relax and breathe. This will help remain calm and level-headed while delivering the bad news.
5. Be Honest and Listen
Because emotions do play a factor, the temptation might arise to downplay your reasons, placing the blame on budgets or revenue. You owe them the truth because it can help them improve and understand exactly why. Once you’ve explained your side, give them a chance to express their feelings without jumping in, or refuting their statements.
There is always the chance they will provide information you didn’t know that can change the entire course of the meeting and make you reconsider. When this happens, take a temporary action, like suspension, to further investigate what happened.
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