Firing somebody just before the holidays strikes most people as the most Scrooge-like move an employer can make.
HR consultant Rose Miller, writing in the Albany Times Union, recently took a clear-eyed look at the question, and suggests that there are some reasons for unloading an employee during what’s supposed to be the most festive time of year:
One of the best arguments for terminations just before the holiday season begins, is it allows the employee to adjust their holiday spending. If the employer waited until after the New Year, the termination would be occurring right when all the bills are coming in. We have heard from employees who have said “they wished they had known.”
There are specific situations that call for terminating employees during the holidays.
Everybody knows that keeping marginal people around holds back productivity, and it certainly doesn’t help morale. But there are legal ramifications, too.
If a company allows a sub-par performer to stay on the job for an extended period of time, it’s possible the employer will set a “customary practice” precedent. And some judges have ruled such customary practice is an implied contract – meaning the employer officially recognizes that poor performance is acceptable.
And then there’s “smoking in the dynamite factory” — employment expert Hunter Lott’s term for specific offenses that are so egregious the employee’s got to be terminated on the spot. These are things like willful violations of safety rules, violent behavior, stealing, and breaking key company rules and policies.
Making ‘reviews’ a year-round process
Although you can make a case for when holiday firings are necessary, those scenarios should be few and far between.
That’s because monitoring and guiding employee performance should be a year-round activity — so in most cases, the need to make a decision about firing somebody doesn’t require the additional worrying about timing.
Your managers should know their reports’ strengths and weaknesses. And they should try to do some key things on a day-in, day-out basis. Here’s a rundown of some key behaviors managers should try to adopt:
Delegate – and then get out of the way. Obviously, a big part of a manager’s job is handing out tasks. But too many managers then hover over employees, getting so tied up in job details it makes it difficult for employees to get things done. Managers need to leave it up to their employees to decide how they will carry out their assignments.
There are a couple big payoffs in this hands-off approach.
First, it can free up a great deal of time for managers and supervisors. And it also allows employees to take a stronger role in their jobs, which usually translates into great employee satisfaction and motivation.
If you see something good, speak up. Far too often, managers don’t respond immediately when they spot an employee who’s putting in extra effort, or doing a job particularly well. But research shows that this kind of “spontaneous” positive feedback is a great morale builder.
Reward it when you see it. Many companies offer “spot rewards” – small things like movie tickets or inexpensive gift certificates that managers can hand out at random times during the workday when an employee’s exhibiting exemplary behavior.
This, too, has been found to be a good morale builder and productivity booster.
Tell them how what they’re doing right now benefits the overall operation. Employees get a genuine sense of fulfillment when they realize how their work fits into overall company success.
When they hear that the widget they’re assembling is going to be shipped to a key customer overseas, that point really hits home.
Celebrate achievements. This is a little bit different from the “speak up when you see something good” rule. Too often, managers are overfocused on getting things done. They tend to put too much emphasis on end results.
But a lot of significant achievements are made on the road to that end product. Problem solving, process streamlining and overcoming unexpected hurdles are all worth recognizing as well.