Published On: February 21st, 2024Categories: Conflict Resolution, Mentoring, Workplace Conflicts

Firing an employee is no easy task for shift managers—even if you know it’s for the best for the organization, the team, and even the employee. It’s a tough decision that comes with emotional and professional complexities, affecting not only the individual being let go but the entire team’s morale and potentially your employer brand.

The stakes are high for shift managers who are responsible for terminating employees if the time comes. Your role in handling this process with care, empathy, professionalism, and in an ethical way can be the difference between a smooth transition or facing legal issues that could damage your business.

Letting someone go is never going to be a pleasant experience, but learning how to terminate an employee in the best way possible is important for everyone involved. In this guide, we’ll take you through the ins and outs of how to terminate an employee ethically with compassion and professionalism.

Why Should You Terminate an Employee?

Terminating an employee is a challenging decision that should never be taken lightly. You can’t legally nor ethically fire someone “just because”—at least not without repercussion.

Employees can easily file for unfair termination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if fired, so you should tread carefully when considering firing someone. Even if the issue, in your eyes, is obvious incompetence or persistently obnoxious behavior, the employee can always file a complaint claiming discrimination based on race, sex, religion, age, or political beliefs.

However, there are situations where it becomes a necessary step for the wellbeing of your organization and team. For example, maybe an employee’s behavior impacts your business, hurts workplace morale or poses a health or safety risk to your employees. But whatever your reason for terminating an employee, it needs to comply with state and federal laws.

Here are some common and acceptable reasons why you might need to terminate an employee:

  • Incompetence, including lack of productivity or poor quality of work
  • Insubordination and related issues such as dishonesty or breaking company rules
  • Attendance issues, such as frequent absences or chronic tardiness
  • Theft or other criminal behavior including revealing trade secrets
  • Sexual harassment and other discriminatory behavior in the workplace
  • Physical violence or threats against other employees

While you can terminate an employee for any of these reasons, your final decision should depend on the facts and circumstances of each case and employee.

Stop Before You Say Goodbye: Have You Taken Proactive Measures to Prevent Termination?

One of the most effective ways to ensure a harmonious and productive work environment is by implementing consistent documentation and performance reviews. These measures are not just about preparing for potential terminations—they play a vital role in preventing the need for termination in the first place.

Regular performance reviews and feedback sessions create a platform for constructive communication. They provide employees with opportunities for growth and development by helping them understand their strengths and areas for improvement. By identifying performance issues early on, organizations can take proactive steps to address them, thus preventing situations where termination becomes necessary.

Incorporating a structured system of performance evaluations and feedback also fosters a culture of continuous improvement. Employees feel supported, engaged, and motivated when they receive regular input on their work, leading to higher job satisfaction, increased productivity, and a decreased likelihood of performance issues escalating to the point where termination is considered.

By prioritizing consistent documentation and performance reviews, organizations can shift the focus from termination as a solution to addressing challenges collaboratively. Terminating an employee should always be the last resort, and with the right processes in place, it can often be avoided altogether, benefiting both the employee and the organization.

How to Prepare for a Smooth Termination Process

After identifying why you should fire an employee, it’s time to do it. Of course, it can be nerve-wracking, but the best way to approach firing someone is to thoroughly prepare yourself.

Knowing how to properly end someone’s employment can make the process more efficient and respectful for the employee being terminated—and can protect your company from potential litigation in the future.

Here are four tips on how to prepare for a smooth termination process:

  1. Bring your documentation, including a termination document, to the meeting.

As you prepare for the meeting, take a moment to gather all the necessary paperwork, including the pieces we mentioned above: a termination document that explains why the decision was made, any previous warnings or performance reviews, and a timeline of relevant events. Having all this documentation serves a dual purpose—it supports your decision and maintains transparency and clarity throughout the process.

  1. Have the meeting in a private location.

Nobody wants to receive this kind of news in front of their colleagues. It can be embarrassing, evoke strong emotions from others, and harm your company’s reputation. To protect the employee’s privacy and ensure a confidential conversation, find a quiet, secluded area where both you and the employee can talk without distractions.

  1. Listen to what they have to say.

During the meeting, be sure to actively listen to what the employee has to say. While the decision may already be made, giving them a chance to express their thoughts and concerns can be beneficial. Be clear with your reasons for firing them and stick to them, but still show empathy and be open to their feedback, even if it won’t change the outcome.

  1. Allow them to ask questions.

Remember, the employee you’re letting go just had their world turned upside down. They have the right to ask questions, so encourage them to do so. Take the time to patiently listen to whatever is on their mind. Be open to discussing why this decision was made and what the next steps are. Besides understanding the reasons for their termination, they might have questions about practical matters like their final paycheck, benefits, and how to return company equipment. Give them the space and compassion they need during this difficult conversation.

What to Say to Your Team and How to Support Them Post-Termination

You can’t hide the fact that you’ve released someone from your team. It not only affects the individual being let go but also has ripple effects throughout your organization. They will wonder and make assumptions. They may fear for their own job security. They may be relieved or angry. So, how you handle the aftermath can either strengthen or weaken your team’s morale, trust, and productivity.

Be Honest and Transparent

Above all, be honest and transparent with your remaining team members. When you’re transparent, it helps your other employees understand how to improve and keep their jobs. Some team members might have questions about their performances, and it could be an excellent time to offer feedback and make better connections.

While transparency is important, be sure to still respect the privacy of the terminated employee by refraining from sharing unnecessary details with your team. Focus on the broader impact and steps moving forward. Confidentiality not only protects the individual but also upholds the professionalism and integrity of your leadership.

Address Team Morale

Acknowledge the situation openly and with empathy. Explain the reasons behind the decision, encourage your team to express their feelings and concerns, and assure them that their feedback is valued.

Make it a two-way conversation. Encourage questions from your team about the termination process, how it will affect them, and what changes they can anticipate. Be prepared to provide honest answers within the bounds of confidentiality and legal constraints. This open dialogue can help alleviate any anxiety or uncertainty.

Workload Redistribution

With an employee gone, there may be an increased workload for the rest of the team. Be proactive in addressing this issue by reassigning tasks and responsibilities as necessary. Ensure that the workload is distributed fairly, and no one feels overwhelmed. Consider the long-term impact on your team’s capacity and discuss whether additional resources or support are needed. 

Support Your Team with Compassion and Open Communication

During times of change, your team’s emotional wellbeing and morale should be your #1 priority. Empathy is the cornerstone of effective leadership during challenging moments. Try to put yourself in your team’s shoes and understand the impact of the termination on them. Acknowledge their emotions and let them know that it’s okay to feel a range of sentiments. Your empathy can go a long way in helping them cope.

Consider proactively investing in workplace culture initiatives to keep morale high. These initiatives can include team-building activities, recognition programs, or additional training opportunities. By pouring into your team’s growth and wellbeing, you’ll not only maintain their morale but also strengthen your team’s bond and collaboration.

Ask for Feedback

Finally, open the floor to your team’s thoughts. Ask them how they feel about the workload changes and the support provided. Their insights matter, and you should value their input. Let them know their feedback plays a vital role in shaping a positive work environment. This collaborative approach strengthens the team’s bonds and their commitment to shared success.

LSI Staffing Can Help You Navigate Employee Terminations with Compassion and Compliance

Terminating an employee is a challenging task for shift managers that requires a delicate balance of legal compliance and compassion. It’s crucial to approach the process thoughtfully, keeping in mind its impact on the individual, the team, and the organization.

At LSI Staffing, we understand the complexities of employee terminations, and we’re here to support you in fostering a workplace culture that values empathy, transparency, and compliance. As you navigate these challenging moments, remember that our expertise can help you lead your team through transitions with care, ensuring a positive and legally sound approach.

Partner with LSI Staffing to ensure your management practices are both compassionate and compliant.