Employees not working. Employees being disruptive. Employees stealing. Ever have to fire someone? Despite the now famous bravado displayed by Donald Trump in his weekly dismissals (or Sir Alan Sugar in the U.K.), terminating an employee is one of the most difficult tasks required of any manager.
And while Mr. Trump has done a good job helping us focus on various factors in business, his example for how to terminate someone is absolutely terrible.
I’d like to take this opportunity to examine reasonable termination procedures using our friend Donald himself as our example. But before I do I should point out that poor management may be the root cause for an employee’s substandard performance. Reason: Employees need to be aware of what’s expected of them. If management doesn’t communicate that, they have no one to blame but themselves if an employee is not performing up to snuff.
If you’re looking at firing someone, look at the situation from all angles. Was the employee aware of requirements? Was he adequately trained? Other factors to consider: Has the employee committed the offense before without receiving a warning? Have other employees been guilty of the same offense without being disciplined? Inconsistent application of the rules not only affects workplace morale, it puts a company on shaky legal ground when a termination does occur.
A signed document in an employee’s file should indicate that he or she is aware of company polices and any of the behaviors that are grounds for termination.
Except for egregious offenses, a progressive discipline system works best. The usual sequence is verbal warning, written warning, suspension, and then termination.
Also, keep in mind that it’s against the law to fire people because of their religion, race, gender, national origin, military status, or because of a medical condition. But if someone has violated policy and you have followed your company’s disciplinary process, then termination may certainly be in order.
So is Donald Trump’s open abruptness the best route? Not quite. A little more thinking before saying “You’re fired” is the true reality.
If I had to fire Donald Trump, I would do it as privately as possible. During lunch or after business hours are good options. Public humiliation in front of co-workers is just plain rude. Sure, Donald gives us good television drama and gets himself excellent ratings, but in the real world, it’s self-aggrandizing.
Second, I would let Donald go early in the week. This would give the rest of my employees time to interact and process the changes together instead by themselves over a weekend. It would also be fair to Donald so he could do something about his situation right away and not just be a shell-shocked zombie on a Friday afternoon.
Third, I’d have someone else present. Going solo would open me up to false accusations against which I’d have no defense if no witness were present. (This is one thing that Donald gets right).
Fourth, I would know the law and stay within it. I’d have my documentation in order and act in accordance with my company’s policies. If I expect Donald to cause trouble I might even make sure the witness in the room is either a company lawyer or someone from HR.
Finally, I wouldn’t dance around the termination—and I wouldn’t apologize for it, either. I wouldn’t say “I wish I didn’t have to do this…,” “I don’t really want to do this…,” or “I’m sorry, this isn’t fair, but….” Those phrases are seedbeds for trouble down the road.
Instead, I would be brief and matter-of-fact. My initial statement might be tactfully simple: “Unfortunately, Donald, due to _____________, we are going to have to let you go.”
He might point his finger at me and try to argue his case, but I’d have all my facts and evidence in a folder in front of me. At best, I might provide a brief review of how the decision was reached, but I would refuse to debate. Besides, the more I’d talk, the higher the chance he might take my words and twist them. I’d just keep it short, then stand up, extend my hand, and say, “Donald, good luck.”
Then Donald Trump would no longer be employed by my company. (Naturally, we would have a cab waiting.)
Of course, if I did all that, I’d probably have a tough time getting him to endorse my next book.