How Not to Fire Somebody

FiredWorking in HR comes with no shortage of upsides. It’s truly one of the most social jobs on the planet. There’s no shortage of areas of specialisation. And if you want it, it gives you the power to really make difference in the company that you go to every day.

Like all jobs however, there are some very real downsides too. And by far the biggest in HR is sitting down on front of somebody and letting them know that their employment is no longer required.

Most people eventually get used to it. But I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the first time you do it, it can be equally nerve wracking on both sides of the table.

Nobody wants to make it harder than it has to be. There’s also the small matter of law suits. Want to completely destroy your budding HR career? Get your company sued.

The good news is that terminations aren’t particularly complicated. If anything, it’s all about what you don’t do.

Don’t Do it By Phone!

First off, I can’t believe I’m saying this but never fire anybody by phone or email. I would have thought that this was obvious but even in 2015, it still happens. It doesn’t matter if the person has been employed for days or years, you must have a termination meeting. Doing so mightn’t be much fun, but it shows that the other person is being respected enough for a face to face meeting.

Don’t Go in Unprepared

If the termination is sudden, you can expect plenty of questions. Assuming you’ve followed adequate disciplinary procedures, the reason for the termination should be obvious. You are, however, still likely to hear questions about benefits, health care, etc. Failing to know the answer to these questions will only add to an already volatile situation. Come prepared.

Don’t Beat Around the Bush

Think of terminating somebody as pulling off a band aid. The longer you draw it out, the worse it’s going to hurt. Now is not a time for pleasantries or praise. Make a list of everything that you need to say before hand and start talking as soon as they sit down. Trust me, it’s better for both parties involved.

Don’t Get Emotional

Nine times out of ten, terminations go off without a hitch. Both parties remain calm. Both parties walk away amicably. Sometimes however, the stress of being let go can really get to a person. Tears can be shed, sometimes so can screams. The second rule of letting somebody go is therefore to remain calm. It’s completely understandable for them to get upset. It’s never understandable for you to do so.

Don’t Apologise

When something bad happens to somebody else, it’s human nature to want to apologise. Because of this it’s one of the most common mistakes made by first time terminators. Unfortunately apologies have a nasty habit of turning into lawsuits. Be respectful, be empathic, wish them well in the future but never apologise. If the termination is justified, neither you or your company, have anything to be sorry for.

A Few Facts About Employment

Employment ContractOne of the most common mistakes made by HR professionals is greatly overestimating how much others understand about their field.

This isn’t a big deal when dealing with friends or colleagues. When dealing with employees however, it’s a recipe for both misunderstanding and easily avoided conflict.

The answer to this problem is simple. Each and every employee at your company should be given a thorough explanation of their employment contracts. It also wouldn’t hurt if they knew a little about your job description too.

Here are six facts that most employees get wrong.

The First Amendment Only Goes So Far

While the importance of the First Amendment cannot be understated, many people seem to greatly overestimate its reach. The purpose of this all important bill is to ensure that the government of the United States cannot restrict the speech of its citizens. Nowhere does it say that an employee cannot be fired for saying something that his/her employer disagrees with it.

A Reasonable Boss isn’t Legally Required

In a perfect world, we’d all have a boss that treats us like a friend. In reality however, there’s no law that says our boss cannot be an absolute jerk. There are certain exceptions to this. Your boss cannot discriminate against you because of your gender, religion or sexuality for example. But if he just doesn’t like the way that you smile, he has every legal right to criticize your latest report.

Employees Can be Dismissed at Any Time

These days, there’s no shortage of laws pertaining to paid maternity and sick leave. By law, all employees are entitled to these things. A common mistake however is to believe that they cannot be dismissed while enjoying them. The reality is that if an employer has a legal right to dismiss you, they’re well within their rights to do so while you’re at home.

Bad References Happen More Often Than People Think

With the popularity of lawsuits higher than ever, it’s not uncommon for employer references to contain nothing more than the date and duration of employment. This however, is a general preference, not a legal requirement. If you do something bad enough at one company, you can virtually guarantee a scathing reference next time you apply to work elsewhere.

The HR Department Works For Employers Not Employees

There are many instances in which the human resources department will be of great assistance to an employee. Conflict resolution and effective communication for example. When it comes down to it however, their primary allegiance is always going to be with the employer. Asking them to side with you on something that hurts the company therefore leads to nothing but awkward situations.

HR Conversations Aren’t Confidential

Tell your problems to a doctor, lawyer or priest, and they are bound by law to keep those problems a secret. Tell those problems to the HR department however, and they are free to tell whoever they want. Now, no respectable HR professional is going to gossip about you. But if you tell them a problem that affects the company, you can bet your bottom dollar that management is going to find out about it.

Do Small Business Owners Even Need HR?

Small BusinessFor large corporations, an in house HR department is something of a no-brainer. Each year, they pay out millions in salaries and training. Hiring a few extra people to get the most out of that investment is an obvious choice.

For small business owners however, the decision can be a little harder to make. Most small companies operate on razor thin budgets. And at first glance, HR does seem like something that the owner could easily handle themselves.

Should all small business owners have a HR department? Certainly not. In the early days of an owner and three employees, a HR professional would just get in the way.

For companies with at least ten employees, however, there are some pretty good arguments why at least one of them should have HR experience.

Here’s why.

Make Hiring Easier

Finding new employees is costly in terms of time, and costly in terms of money if you get it wrong. A HR professional can keep both these costs as low as possible. They handle the recruitment and interviews leaving the business owner to focus on other things. And because their experts at it, they ensure that you find the best person for the job.

Boost Employee Morale

One of the many responsibilities of a HR department is to simply keep employees happy. They ensure open lines of communication, they request employee feedback on a regular basis and when necessary, they assist in conflict resolution.

Boost Productivity

As anyone who’s ever employed an unhappy team will tell you, happy employees work harder. Hiring an employee is an investment. The work they put in is your return. And a solid HR professional can ensure that said return is maximized.

Reduce Employee Turnover

Happy employees are also less likely to leave. And it follows that a HR professional can reduce employee turnover.

In some ways, this is even more important for a small business than a large one. Large companies can afford the occasional walk out. Small companies cannot because it’s not uncommon for one employee to play two or three key roles.

Reduce Likelihood of Litigation

HR professionals aren’t cheap. They are however significantly cheaper than lawsuits. A HR company can’t completely protect against employee litigation. Whoever figures this out will be a millionaire.

They can however greatly reduce the odds of it occurring. Examples of things that they know, that some business owners don’t include:

• How to hire and fire legally.
• How to handle conflicts legally.
• Notices that must be displayed on premises OSHA etc.
• State and federal laws regarding employment