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Firing: when and how to do it.

Editor's note:

Dave Wiggins is a speaker, trainer, and consultant on issues of management, sales, workplace innovation, and customer retention. He is the author of two books, including Time Management for Busy People: The Crash Course. Dave lives and works in Lakewood, Colorado, and can be reached at (303) 716-1885. The following article should not be construed as legal advice or as pertaining to specific factual situations.

Firing employees is probably the most unpleasant part of running a company It is, however, as important to operating a business as hiring, paying bills, doing paperwork, and serving customers. You hope your style of selecting and managing employees prevents you from having to fire often, but sometimes it simply must be done.

Whom Should Your Company Fire?

As Harvey McKay once wrote, it's not the employees you fire who cause you problems. It's the ones you keep. You should release anyone whose work or presence does not add to the company's profitability People who cause more problems than they solve also should get the proverbial pink slip. Remember, employing one "rotten apple" can literally destroy a company. Here are a few types who should get their walking papers - fast!

The Dishonest

Every minute a company employs a thief, it courts disaster. Of course, anyone caught stealing money, equipment, or proprietary information - at or away from work - should be fired on the spot. Workers who are aware of theft by other employees and fail to report it should be released as well. Also terminate those people who slander others or misrepresent themselves on resumes and applications.

The Dangerous

Most people are harmless, but a few will attack at any time and with only the slightest provocation. Unfortunately, assaults and murders in the workplace have increased in recent years, and most perpetrators have a history of violent behavior. Don't be a victim! Except in security situations, people who carry firearms with them to work, threaten violence, or have assaulted others in any way should be cut from the payroll at once.

The Negligent

Customers who feel neglected or disrespected will quickly become ex-customers. Indeed, losing patrons can be very costly. First, you miss out on their business. Then you lose again after they steer other potential customers away with their horror stories about your company. Rude receptionists; apathetic service people; and anyone else who is unresponsive, surly, or snide, will anger patrons and drive them to your competitors.

Well-managed companies teach their employees how to deliver high-quality service. Some people, however, will not treat customers in a courteous, professional manner, regardless of the training they get. Of course, everyone makes a human relations mistake occasionally, but any employee who repeatedly mistreats or annoys your customers should be quickly replaced. Few organizations can afford to lose the business these people will surely drive away.

The Abusive

Mistreatment and disrespect have no proper role in a business, period! Workers who openly display racism, sexism, homophobia, or religious intolerance expose their employers to potential lawsuits. This is not a question of or an argument about "political correctness" in the workplace. Never put up with workers who make verbal "slurs," sexually harass, assign work unfairly, or discriminate illegally Thousands of lawyers in America are getting rich by suing companies that tolerate such behavior.

Finding and keeping good employees is getting more difficult, so it is important for employers to create a positive work environment. Those who mistreat others will quickly destroy morale and motivate good people to quit. The potential for lawsuits aside, is any abusive person worth keeping on the payroll?

Some More Points Concerning Termination

Without Exception, Keep Good Records on Every Employee

It is a smart business practice to maintain a detailed, up-to-date file on each worker. In writing, list each promotion, reprimand, absence, late arrival, accomplishment, and all other positive and negative information about that employee. If you fire someone and get sued for wrongful termination, an objective, detailed history of the ex-employee's work will greatly decrease the odds that you will lose that lawsuit.

Deliver the Warning

Security experts suggest that when you fire employees for theft, ethical breaches, potential for violence, or similar causes, be sure to give them a simple warming: If they are ever seen on company property again, you will call the police and have them arrested for trespassing. Such warnings will greatly reduce the likelihood of sabotage or violence by that ex-employee. For some unexplainable reason, even the most dishonest, vengeful, violent people have a psychological barrier against trespassing.

Show Them the Door - Literally

In the minutes following termination, unsupervised ex-employees have been known to cry, behave hysterically, engage in sabotage, steal, and even get violent. Be prepared. Before you fire an employee, prepare the last paycheck. Pay the full amount due and give that person the check on the spot. Then, escort the person to the parking lot at once. Do not let a terminated employee out of your sight for even one moment until he or she is clearly off the premises.

Consult a Lawyer

State employment laws vary, and federal workplace regulations change often. If you have any doubts about the legality of terminating an employee, talk to a lawyer first. Find one who specializes in employment law. No one likes paying for legal consultations, but the right advice can help you avoid expensive, unnecessary litigation.
COPYRIGHT 1998 National Environmental Health Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Excellence in Management; dismissal of employees
Author:Wiggins, Dave
Publication:Journal of Environmental Health
Article Type:Column
Date:Sep 1, 1998
Previous Article:Interviewing with assurance.
Next Article:The benefit to you.

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