Letting an Employee Go – 8 Tips for New Managers

Letting an employee go is rarely a pleasant experience, but it can be especially difficult when you’re a new manager. Not only can dismissing a member of your team upset their income, career, and emotional wellbeing, it may impact the workflow and morale of your remaining employees. These 8 tips will help you navigate the employment termination process as smoothly as possible.

1. Understand Your Obligations

Before deciding to let an employee go, you should understand the employment and labour standards laid out by the province or territory in which your business operates. In most cases, you’ll need to provide written notice, pay in lieu of notice, or a combination of the two.

2. Try to Make it Work

Since the decision to terminate a team member often stems from poor work performance, you should make an effort to first determine their coachability by meeting regularly to:

  • Discuss their progress and offer feedback
  • Advise where improvements are needed
  • Set goals and measure their development against an established timeline

Being upfront and transparent in your reviews will help lay the groundwork should you eventually need to let a struggling employee go.

3. Document the Details

It’s wise to document employment activities wherever possible. In addition to giving team members a written copy of company policies, behaviour expectations, and specific role requirements, you should document any rule infringements (like repeated tardiness, for example) or failure to meet objectives or deadlines – along with any disciplinary actions you take.

4. Be Firm, But Fair

Make sure your decision to let an employee go is driven by practical rather than emotional reasons, and that it’s consistent with the way you treat all your staff.

  • DO stick to the facts and avoid focusing on an employee’s personality
  • DO cite specific, tangible examples of substandard results or performance
  • DO make it clear your decision is in their best interest

Letting your employee know you care about their success and don’t want to see them wasting time in a position that’s not a good fit can help soften the blow of dismissal.

5. Prepare in Advance

Prepare what you’re going to say in advance, take care to conduct your conversation in private, and make sure any necessary documentation is in order before letting your employee go. It’s often best to terminate a team member early in the work week so you can take immediate action to deal with any chaos their leaving may cause.

6. Enlist Support

Serving a termination notice can be emotionally trying for everyone involved. Keep your interaction as clear and brief as possible, and try to deliver the news with another staff member present – preferably someone from your HR department who can outline any severance or benefit entitlements.

7. Oversee the Exit Process

To minimize workplace disruption, set aside time after hours or over the weekend for your employee to clear out any personal belongings. Consider using a termination checklist to ensure no company-owned items, keys, or ID badges leave the premises, then escort your employee from the building.

8. Plan to Move Forward

One of your team members may be gone – but their workload remains. Your plan to move forward after an employee’s dismissal should include:

  • Preparing to temporarily share out their work duties
  • Finding and training a suitable replacement
  • Making yourself readily available to help your team through the transition

As difficult as it can be to let an employee go as a new manager, it’s important to cut the losses associated with a bad hire as soon as you reasonably can.

If your efforts to mentor the individual prove fruitless, you should seek advice on how to properly terminate their employment without legal, financial, or reputational fallout.

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