They are words that no one wants to say, and even fewer want to hear. While there are, of course, situations which warrant firing on the spot, these are few and far between. More common are terminations which result from missed expectations, which can include everything from poor work performance to repeatedly arriving late. While avoiding termination entirely may not be possible, it is possible to reduce the instances in which it is necessary, and to make the process as painless as possible for all involved.
One of the first steps toward respectful terminations is to maintain an atmosphere of trust among your staff. This means treating your workers as adults, and giving them the freedom to make their concerns known when issues arise. Concerns about employee performance should be raised immediately so that the problem can (hopefully) be remedied. If, however, keeping one employee on board is coming at the expense of the rest of your team, then termination may become necessary. Before action is taken, you should ensure that all issues have been properly documented so that your decision can be demonstrably supported. Keep in mind, a progressive (discipline) approach to termination will illustrate your due diligence in working towards this employee’s success, which can reduce an employee from becoming disgruntled because they were given chances. This means a termed employee, and possible future attorney, will be discouraged from suing a Practice because the termination was justified and well documented.
Termination should take place as quickly as possible, so as to pave the way for your office to bounce back. Plus, knowing right away will give the employee the best opportunity to locate new employment. If you have communicated your concerns in the past, then this decision should not come as a surprise. Making sure the termination is based upon objective data as opposed to anger or frustration, will reduce the difficulty of breaking the bad news. Finally, determine whether you can make any changes which can help to reduce the need for terminations in the future (such as stronger vetting procedures to locate more qualified candidates). Remember that employees are people with feelings and families who count on them, and that treating them with respect should always be paramount.