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Tough Task Guide for Business Owners: How to Let an Employee Go

Our topic today is one of the most difficult things for any business leader or owner. It’s a task that we just want to avoid. However, that’s not always possible, because we’ll be talking about how to let an employee go. All business owners have to do this at some point, and I, over the years, have spent countless hours thinking through the best way to do it. It really is a very difficult process, and you must make sure you don’t waste too much time on it because it can distract you from really growing your business.

Here are some tips when you have to let someone go:

1. In order to terminate or let go an employee, you need to double check first to make sure that you (or the person responsible for overseeing the said employee) laid out clear expectations beforehand. In essence, have you done a good job of truly explaining what’s expected of them? Did you train them appropriately? Have you had annual/quarterly reviews with specific feedback so that the person you’re terminating knows without a doubt what the expectations were and whether or not they were meeting them?

In the past, I’ve worked with leaders who were ready to terminate someone when the truth was that they were the ones at fault, not their employees. So first of all, make sure that you gave your employee all the tools and guidance they need to succeed at their job.

2. It’s good to have a “3-strike, you’re out policy” in terms of documentation. If a violation occurs or the employee missed the mark on a task, it has to be clearly documented immediately. Also, talk to HR before terminating so you can proceed properly and avoid potential wrongful termination lawsuits.

By the way, here’s a mantra to think about: slow to hire and quick to fire. The reality is that many people know when it’s the right time to terminate, but they just let it drag on and on and on. This kind of wishy-washy behavior can seriously hurt the morale of the company or organization. Plus, the leader becomes so mentally distracted that they can’t drive business and excel in other areas. So once a decision is made, the termination should follow very quickly.

3. When you’re actually terminating the individual, it’s important to have another person present, preferably an HR representative. It’s also good to have an exit interview so you can document what was working and what wasn’t as the employee leaves the company.

4. Document the entire process and have everyone sign the required paperwork. Basically, get your ducks in a row.

All this sounds a lot simpler than it actually is. Letting an employee go is tough and makes us struggle because we care. Even if they’re not performing in their job, we still care about them as people. But the fact of the matter is that we must think about what is best for the organization. If having that person around is hurting the organization and your team’s morale, they should be let go. And honestly, the person you’re terminating probably has a great skillset, but it’s just not a good fit for the position. You might be holding them back from being able to thrive in another organization.

So even though it’s really hard, I encourage you to go out and take action on this today.