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Be sure you're firing wisely

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If you've been kind enough to read this blog regularly, you may have detected a trend: I tend to be positive. Positive that you can find and keep good employees. Positive that they will want to work hard and succeed. Positive you are doing your best to run your business well. Positive about the future, even though there will be bumps, setbacks and wrong turns on the way there.

Is the glass half-full in my world? My attitude is more like, “There’s more room in the glass? Awesome!”

So today, I want to ruminate a bit on how to fire employees. Not a positive experience, to be sure.

Here’s the article on CNN Money that got me thinking about this. Earlier this year, in a multibillion-dollar deal, American (and Pittsburgh) icon H.J. Heinz went private. Ten days later, the company’s executives went off to a rather fancy venue for their annual leadership conference. Immediately following an opening pep talk from the outgoing CEO, a dozen of those executives were called into a room one by one, where 11 were told they no longer had jobs with the company.

The most stunning detail? The 11 were invited to participate in the remainder of the conference, complete with outings, while the sole survivor and the people newly promoted into the now-vacant positions were told they’d be flown back to Pittsburgh on a corporate jet to take up their new roles when the conference concluded.

I assume the unemployed group had round-trip commercial tickets when they arrived. I hope.

To me, that is not the way to unhire someone, especially when the change isn’t necessarily about poor performance.

Any good consultant or HR professional will tell you two things, even if the dismissal is for cause: Help the departing employee maintain his or her dignity, and keep it short. Focus on the fact of what’s happening – “you don’t have a job with us anymore” – and don’t get into apologies or, worse, drawn-out discussions.

Even details about severance, health benefits and so on will be wasted breath at this point, though you’ll want to review them. The employee needs time to absorb the news plus info on how to get questions answered later.

Here are some useful tips on what not to say.

Letting an employee go is also an excellent time for you to do some soul-searching. Why did you have to terminate the person? Was it really necessary? Does the situation tell you anything about your company, your management style, the way you hire? Could you have done anything differently before getting to that point?

Here are 10 questions to ask yourself before you fire.

Finally, there’s the question we all hate to ask when the termination seems unavoidable. Whose fault was it, really? In other words, could it perhaps be you who you should be firing?

 

The week ahead

Training can be critical to an employee’s success. Our Inside Business focus this week is employee training and education -- which includes lists on the highest-paying professions in the midstate and executive raises.

Looking for networking opportunities? Click here.

And last but certainly not least, the state legislature is back in session Monday.

The rewind

Getting back to the topic of hiring and firing, have you ever found yourself in the position where you had to fire a vendor or a customer? Was it any different than dealing with an individual? Would you fire this company if you were a client? (And, actually, you are.)

Hope Stephan

Hope Stephan

Hope Stephan is editor of the Central Penn Business Journal. A Pennsylvania native, she is a graduate of Penn State and Xavier University. Have a question or tip for her? Email her at hopes@cpbj.com. Follow her on Twitter, @hstephan. Circle Hope Stephan on .

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