Paul Wolfowitz once mused: “Firing employees: Unfortunately, that’s a part of doing business.”

While laying off staff is seemingly instinctive for the ex-President of the World Bank, firing members of your team is far from a straightforward task – irrespective of what Google, fellow business owners, or your friends may tell you after a few pints at the local pub.

In 2019, the Office for National Statistics released figures indicating that 32.54m people are currently employed, an all-time high for employment rates within the United Kingdom. Despite encouraging employment rates, scenarios remain whereby employers’ have to relinquish employees of their duties.

Being fired the ‘wrong way’ has the potential to shatter self-confidence and hinder a worker’s willingness to pursue alternative job opportunities and can also lead to prolonged, and in some cases detrimental, employment tribunals. Therefore, an employer should ensure that a staff member is relieved of their duties in a noble, graceful manner. Firing an employee is one of the most challenging elements of being a business owner or manager. There isn’t a ‘right way’ to fire an employee, per se, yet it doesn’t necessitate a gung-ho, insensitive approach. Every staff member deserves to leave a company with dignity, not amid controversy and conspiracy. Therefore, apply the following to your practice when letting a member of staff go:

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Privacy

Bosses should always put themselves in the shoes of the employee: Would you like to receive bad news amid a busy office, void of privacy? Humanely approach the scenario and deliver the news to the person in question in a meeting room away from their friends and colleagues. 

Consider the personality of the person who you’re due to meet with and think about how they may react. For instance, if you think they’ll get upset, book a meeting room that’s close to an exit.

Sometimes, it may be deemed appropriate to hold the meeting in the employee’s office. This prevents the need for him/her to make the long walk back to their desk. When you conclude the meeting, they’ll be in a familiar place where they can let the news sink in.

 Privacy is a quintessential part of the process; paying attention to minute details will make the experience easier for both you and the person you’re letting go. Therefore, act to prevent any potential interruptions: Turn off your mobile phone, put a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door, and turn on the ‘Out of Office’ for the duration of the meeting to ensure that nobody disturbs you.

There’s Never a ‘Good Time’ to Be Fired

It can spark debate as to when the best time is to let a member of staff go; some people believe that it’s preferable to fire a member of staff at the beginning of the week, rather than a Friday, and vice-versa.

However, truth be told, there isn’t a good time for anyone to lose their job. 

Therefore, carefully weigh up the pros and cons of the dismissal and if you decide to commence with your decision. It could be beneficial to inform the employee of the news as soon as possible.

The experience is unpleasant for both parties involved: Workers are left jobless, while employers have to deal with an awkward situation. 

Therefore, it’s advisable not to elongate the process and afford your member of staff the luxury of a swift exit.

Make the Dismissal Swift and Succinct

If a member of staff has been called into a dismissal meeting, it’s often the case that instinct will inform them that something is amiss. 

Therefore, avoid small talk, and adopt a direct, yet sympathetic approach.

More often than not, your employee will be disheartened and there will be very little that can be said to make the situation better.

Don’t Partake in Debates

After being fired, it’s perfectly natural for a staff member to ask for clarity surrounding your rationale.

It’s important to remember that conflicting opinions can arise when answering any queries that the individual may have. In such instances, it’s important to ensure that you steer clear of entering a debate or an argument about the decision that has been made and maintain a professional stance.

Deciding to fire a member of your team is difficult, but it’s also an admirable trait. In making the decision, you’ve identified areas for improvement and acted accordingly, with the business’s best interests at heart. Therefore, it’s important to stick to your guns and communicate clearly that the decision has been made and will not be reconsidered. Engaging in a prolonged debate can do more harm than good.

If possible, enter the meeting equipped with the termination documents – never present an employee with a false sense of hope that your decision could be reversed.

Communicate the News Respectfully

Every person deals with losing their job differently. While some people adopt a philosophical approach, others can be more sensitive.

Therefore, ask the person who you’re firing how they would like the news to be communicated to their colleagues.

For example, some might prefer to get in touch with their peers themselves or tell their friends within the office first, before it becomes public knowledge. Alternatively, some people may want their boss to do it for them, in which case, be sure to share the news respectfully.

Irrespective of the circumstances surrounding the decision to fire a worker, always take into consideration which details should be disclosed and act professionally. 

Rehearse the Meeting

Excessive talking, mixed messages, lack of clarity, and failure to disclose key points can all contribute to a messy, embarrassing dismissal. However, such mistakes can easily be avoided by practising beforehand.

Consider partaking in a role-play exercise with your HR Manager or senior management to eradicate any mistakes that could make the meeting uncomfortable or unpleasant for the person being fired.

When Could a Dismissal be Deemed Unfair?

Although the reasons for firing a member of staff differ dependent on personal circumstances, establishing a clear-cut reason for any dismissal is paramount, irrespective of whether redundancy measures, gross misconduct, or a staff member’s perceived inability to fulfil the duties affiliated with the role are cited.

When firing a member of your team, staff members who have been with the company for a total of fewer than 2 years’ service have less protection than those who have been working with the company for a longer period. Nonetheless, it’s important to ensure that the dismissal isn’t viewed as discriminatory, irrespective of how long the employee has been present.

If the dismissal is prejudiced, then it can be challenged. A dismissal may be deemed unfair if the worker is:

  • pregnant or on maternity leave;
  • from a particular race, ethnicity or country;
  • married or in a civil partnership;
  • a man or a woman;
  • disabled;
  • lesbian, gay, bisexual; 
  • transgender;
  • have a particular religion or set of beliefs;
  • older or younger than the people you work with.

While it is permitted to dismiss a member of staff who falls into any of these categories, they cannot be dismissed on any of these grounds.

Minimising Staff Dismissals

Invariably, there are instances whereby a staff dismissal simply cannot be helped. While the conversation will inevitably be tough, the aforementioned measures can make the experience easier.

In business, people often cross paths further down the line, so always make sure that you treat people the way that you would like to be treated when dismissing a member of staff.

However, measures can be taken to minimise the probability of staff dismissals, such as attributing importance to inspiring your workforce and never underestimating the significance of an effective company recruitment policy.

Avoid retrospective action and get it right first time, by contacting Triple Three Solutions Limited. Email us on lisa@triplethreesolutions.co.uk for a chat; we’d be delighted to help.