4 Ways to Help Reduce the Stress of Terminating an Employee

No employer ever likes having the let an employee go. Beyond the need to fill the position quickly and the cost of hiring and training someone new, it’s simply a gut-wrenching experience filled with the sort of stress that benefits no one. This can be further compounded if the person being let go is a genuinely good person, and the reasons for their termination are strictly within the context of their performance and not their personality. Whatever the reason may be, there are many things you can to do help reduce the stress associated with letting an employee go.

Give Chances

This comes before the decision to terminate an employee has ever been made. Human beings are infallible, and sometimes mistakes are made. It could be a one-time oversight that admittedly has negative repercussions for the company as a whole, a minor things that seem to pile up. Whatever the reasons may be, making the decision to fire an employee must be met with reason. Is their performance slipping? Discuss it with them and suggest ways they can improve. Did they make a singular mistake? If their record is otherwise spotless, find out why the mistake was made and work with them to help avoid similar mistakes in the future. Furthermore, you should find out what caused the mistake, if possible. While simple carelessness can be chalked up to “being human,” it’s not uncommon to discover through routine disciplinary measures that the employee is bored with their work, or experiencing stress in their personal lives.

Plan Ahead

This certainly goes without saying, but having a solid plan in place – the who, what, why, where, and when – is critical to ensuring the bare minimum of added stress that comes with terminating an employee. Will it just be you at the meeting? When and where will it be held? Do you have all the relevant information backing up your decision? Not only do you have the consider these things for your sake, you need to consider them for the employee’s. Barring certain situations like theft, it’s always best to not fire employees around holidays or other stressful periods in their life. Compounding their stress can only lead to making yours worse, as you might wind up feeling as if you’ve ruined a life.

Be Objective

It’s easy to let emotions take over when terminating an employee. Maybe you never really liked the person in question, or they try to turn it around and attack you (with words, not violence). In the end, getting defensive, being insulting, or making assumptions is not going to do any good to alleviate the stress. As such, when you inform someone they’re being terminated, you should stick to the facts. Did they steal? Has their performance not improve despite frequent warnings? Be objective, and most importantly, be clear with the reasons that contributed to the employee being let go. While not every situation will play out the way you want it to, simply being honest and having the facts to back up your decision is the best way to avoid shouting matches or even lawsuits.

Prepare for Anything

Thankfully, most terminations occur without any real problems. But others, no matter how much you prepare, can throw a curveball at you. For example, the seemingly calm and collected employee might verbally threaten you with violence or the company with a lawsuit; they might cry and try and guilt you into changing your mind; and they might simply refuse to leave. You should always have plans in place to account for every possible scenario. Practice with colleagues, especially if they plan on being part of the termination process. Ensure that security is aware of everything that might happen, and have them ready to escort the team member off the premises should it be necessary.

There’s no “right” way to terminate an employee, as every scenario and company and person is completely different. But by following these steps, you can help reduce the stress associated with this difficult task and walk away proud that you made the right decision for you and your company.

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