How to fire employees? Firing employee? Firing employees? THE GUIDE

These days every now and then we hear about a friend/colleague getting fired or a company laying off its employees. Then the blame game phase, where the employer will blame the employees and the employees will blame the employer.

Firing employees is not easy

For any sane minded company (you should work with sane minded company only) firing is one of the most difficult part. I had interacted with some of the people for whom firing is just a way to improve his business. If somebody is not performing ask him to leave, thats all. Some people are good at firing, I am not. I have always struggled with firing employees and I have learned my lessons too. Firing is awful for the person doing the casting out and, surely, for the person being fired. Still it is important to let people go at times. I was a part of many discussions where we were passing the ball to each other for the firing announcement. I was also a part of the team that got fired. So I have been on both the sides of firing table and felt the heat exact same on both sides.

Why employees get fired

Just 4 reasons:

  1. For breaking laws.
  2. Non performance
  3. Economical problems
  4. Strategy changes by the company

Employees getting fired for breaking laws:

Now even this can be further divided into 2:

  • Being unethical: This is when people steal or cheat or sell off some proprietary things. This is highly unaccepted. In this case one doesn’t need to think twice. Hear the person, give a good and fast trial and call the fire alarm. In such firings it is important to announce the reason for firing really loudly. I remember a case with a very high profile US based company that started its operation in India. A senior person, very high performing person, was fired from the company for bribing the government officials for a contract. Company did get the contract. In any other company the person might have got appreciated with incentives as bribing is taken as a accepted practice in some part of the world. BUT this company wanted to make sure that its people understand the value behind its integrity, so fired the person loudly. Every person in the company got a mail with the reasons and was asked not to take this route ever. So in such cases do shout loud enough after firing. This will also settle the dust of confusion among the employees. Leave no place for gossips or misinterpretation after firing.
  • Breaking of other company rules: There can be other breaking of rules like coming late, or being arrogant to the seniors etc. In such cases I haven’t seen much of firing as most of the firing had non-performance as the real reason and breaking of company rules only as the surface reasons. In such cases before firing the person you need to give the person atleast 3 to 4 chances. Provide training to the person, assign a mentor and delegate the firing process to the mentor. After 3 to 4 chances do let go the person with proper explanations. Also it is advisable to clear this process with other employees. I will also suggest to drop a common mail to the company explaining the reasons and the process for such firing.

Firing employees for non performance

This is a much debatable topic when it comes to firing because of non performance. I have only seen few occasions when the person has accepted that he/she wasn’t performing. In most of the cases both the parties will disagree on the non-performance status. I recently interacted with a person who got fired from one of my known companies. I know their management really well. So he asked me, “Why did so and so fired me, I was one of the most performing person in the team and they fired me for non-performing”. I inquired and found many more reasons behind his firing including some level of politics (You know what I mean). But overall this guy wasn’t clear on “WHY I WAS FIRED FOR NON-PERFORMANCE”. There were instances were people were getting fired for non-performance and I advocated and mentored them. To the surprise of many they became the pillars to the company. Also there were instances when non-performers did not improve and did cost to the company because of my intervention.

With non-performance based firing one need to be very careful and make sure that their is no foul play involved. As in one of my previous post it mentioned that “People leave company because of their manager“, so can be the case with firing. There are many cases where the firing happened because the manager was not happy with certain thing (which can not be counted as non-performance at all), or the manager was feeling threatened because of the junis talent and so on. So in case of non-performance, let the HR department define the non-performance clearly. THE KEY IS CANDID. You need to be open to the employees as in what you mean by non-performance since performance is estimated based on results and results are depended on team work. At many times the job profile may not be well defined leading to non performance. Different people have different attitude towards work, some are task oriented or well-defined job description oriented, so you need to define their roles very preciously to avoid non-performance. A scrutiny of non-performance may also lead to improvement in work and work-flow processes.

In case of non-performance firing make sure that it doesn’t come to the person as a surprise. Let there be a complete open and candid process for such firing. (Also take it as lesson for your hiring, generally a lot of initial stage non-performance firing happens because of bad hiring)

Mass Employee firing due to economical problems

This can be really sad when all of a sudden the client flow dies off and the company find itself in a financial crisis. Company does try to fight back but at times nothing work out. In such cases, it is very important to involve the whole of the company to understand the problem and fight back. Recently I visited a CEO of a growing company, he explained me how his company went through financial crisis and how his employees helped him come out of it. In that conversation he did mention that he was very open to the employees about the financial crisis faced by the company. He attended few meetings with the whole team and explained them the issues faced by the company. Then everybody worked extra, analyzed the problems and brought the company out of financial crisis. In all possible cases one need to be very candid with the people in concern.

Even when the CEO explains the issues to the next level it sometimes doesn’t flow down to the core people group. CEO of the company need to ensure that the next level is passing on the information with the same intensity. I have access to some of the top companies in India and I have seen how their CEO sends regular group emails, be it a happy moment or a sad one (but most of these companies are tech companies and every employee has access to emails).

Point of the matter is that employer needs to involve the employee in these situations. Such layoffs should not come as a surprise to anyone.

Employee firing due to strategy changes by the company

This was another reason that I have personally witnessed where the company decided to stop a particular department as they felt it is not the right direction for the company. Such decisions can come out of management meetings and can hit the team as a surprise. But even in these cases company need to discuss with the team about such a move. After all success is all about fine tuning. It is easy to destroy but very difficult to create one. When the company shares its observations with the team then there can be a mutual discussion and sometimes it can come bring huge profit out of such departments and products. Even when the company need to take such decisions, it needs to make sure that the team members are given enough time to explore new opportunities in life.

Do not just delegate firing to the HR department

At many layouts and firing the top management is not at all seen, it is taken care by the HR department. Delegating layoffs or firing to the HR department is not very much advisable. I used to get involved in firing representing the management. Also CEOs and other senior members do jump in at serious firing cases. It is very important to involve the immediate managers and team members in the firing process. In some cases i will also advice the involvement of management including the CEO.

Overall summary on How to fire employees

  1. Make sure employees know the exact reason why they are getting fired.
  2. Make sure it doesn’t come to them as a surprise.
  3. Make sure you hear different version of the story before taking a decision. Allow fair trail.
  4. Make sure you don’t delegate firing to HR department alone.

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