Time to terminate? 5 ways to help your managers decide

time to terminate? 5 ways to help your managers decide

Ask any manager, and they’ll most likely say letting an employee go is the worst part of the job. 

Terminations are always tricky, no matter how necessary. And even though sometimes it’s glaringly obvious an employee has to go, other times the decision can be agonizing.

Reflect and regroup

While HR pros can’t always make the decision for their managers, there are certain ways to guide them to reach a clear decision.

Leadership and talent experts Jay Conger and Patty McCord shared five things they always ask their managers to do when they get that feeling it may be time for an employee to go.

1. Ask yourself a lot of questions. If you’re considering firing someone, that’s already a bad sign, Conger says. If this person was an ideal employee, thoughts of termination would never enter your mind.
Now, it’s time to decide if the situation can be salvaged. Think about the employee and ask yourself the following questions

  • Imagine the perfect team. Is this person on it?
  • Knowing what you know now about this person, would you hire them if they applied for a job today?
  • If the employee wanted to resign, would you fight to keep them?

Answering “no” to any or all of these questions is a good indicator it’s time to say goodbye to the employee.

2. Consider why you want to let them go. It’s easy to write someone off as being a poor performer, but it’s important to dig a little deeper and see what’s causing it, Conger says.

You may find the employee is unsure of their responsibilities or never received necessary training, which are tangible problems that can be repaired.

Finding the root cause of the issue can be very illuminating, McCord says.

Maybe they really are a good employee, but started to struggle when business needs shifted. Someone in this situation could be worth holding onto.

Communicate openly

3. Ask for input from others. It’s good to ask yourself the important questions, Conger says, but you could be biased toward the employee. Getting the opinion of a few trusted colleagues can really help clear up any confusion or hesitation.

To get an objective opinion, a good approach is to avoid mentioning the problem employee, he says. Try something like, “I’ve noticed our team isn’t performing as it should be. What do you think the reason is?”

If your colleague brings up the employee in question, ask for specifics – they may have noticed things you haven’t.

4. Be transparent and honest with the employee. Before any major decision is made, it’s crucial to speak to the employee, McCord says. Ideally, you would’ve had conversations with the worker ever since issues arose.

But if it’s gotten to the point where you’re considering termination, it’s time to cut to the chase, McCord says. Be clear they aren’t hitting targets and you’re concerned about their performance lately.

Gauging the employee’s reaction will be helpful, too. Are they defensive and hostile, or open to correcting their issues?

5. Act quickly once a decision is made. If you decide to try and keep an employee, lay out clear expectations of how and when they must improve, Conger says. He recommends avoiding formal performance improvement plans (PIPs), as this can imply your end goal is to fire them.

If you’re letting the employee go, it’s a bad idea to procrastinate, Conger says.

Hesitation can cause your team to question your courage and credibility. Not to mention, the employee deserves to be terminated in the kindest way possible.

Rachel Mucha
Rachel writes about Human Resource management and has been a member of the HRMorning staff since 2017. She is a graduate of Ithaca College.