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How To Terminate a Subordinate
By Michael C. Dennis MBA, CBF, LCM

Arguably, the worst job duty any manager has involves having to terminate a subordinate. Ideally, this task can be avoided, but when it is evident that termination is unavoidable there are some important steps to make the process better and safer including these:

  • Document the reasons for the termination carefully. Arrange for your human resources department to review the documentation to ensure that the reason or reasons for the termination are lawful and that the documentation is adequate.

  • Most companies in the United States are at will employers and this means that technically they are not required to have a reason to fire an employee. However, most experts agree that employees expect to know why they are being fired and refusing to reveal the reason for the termination can result in the fired employee filing a wrongful termination complaint or lawsuit.

  • Ask the human resources department to review the employee's personnel file to make certain there is nothing in it [like an employment contract] that would prevent the firing.

  • Arrange to meet with the employee being fired in private. Always have a witness...preferably someone from the human resources department.

  • Get to the point of the meeting quickly. Don't get drawn into a debate, discussion or negotiation about the decision to fire your subordinate. Make it clear that the decision is final.

  • If you are unsure of exactly what to say, ask the human resources representative to do some role playing with you before you meet with the employee being fired.

  • Make sure that you are well organized. Be sure that you have all the relevant documents before calling the employee to the meeting.

  • Don't harp on the employee's shortcomings. Be as sensitive and professional as possible, but as direct and in control as you need to be to keep the termination meeting focused.

One final thought: If you make a mistake in hiring the wrong person, don't compound your mistake by keeping them. Do yourself, your subordinates and your company a favor by cutting your losses and terminating any newly hired employee that does not demonstrate the enthusiasm, the work ethic, or the skills necessary to succeed in the position they were hired for.

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