Ah! Another day at the office. Another day to run your agency and realise your whole vision for it. Until you remember that you need to do a pending task: cut down on your company’s overhead cost–and no other unnecessary cost stands out to you than staffing. So you wonder, “what’s the best way to fire an employee?” Has anyone become an expert on this task yet? Let me talk to him!
I don’t know about you, but I can never be comfortable firing an employee, especially from my agency. It’s still hard for me no matter how many times I do it.
A big reason this holds is that I know how TERRIBLE it feels they let you go. There are no words for it.
We’ve all been there. What we thought would be an ordinary working day turned out to be our last day. So being human, we sometimes want to avoid hurting people or in this case, taking away their source of living, yes?
In one glance, here’s what I would like to teach you:
3 SIMPLE STEPS TO FIRING EMPLOYEES FROM AN AGENCY
1. Keep your WHY in mind
2. Know HOW to best end it
3. Cover the LEGAL aspects
YOUR ‘WHY’ IS THE KEY
If your WHY is weak, any kind of HOW will never work. Your WHY is the backbone for your actions. It is especially important when you are making a difficult decision you want to keep. In situations such as firing employees from an agency, your emotions might play a lead role more than you would want.
Your reasons must be strong, so it won’t get clouded once you are in the heat of the moment. Make sure you have thoroughly read, analysed and confirmed your decision with the key people in your agency. These key people may be coming from your operations, human resources, and management teams.
As much as possible, you want your whole core team to be in the loop of your crucial decision and seek that they also agree to it. Not that your team would have the final say, but it will help assure your choice was not out of impulse.
What are the Most Common Reasons Agency Owners are Firing Employees?
1. The employee becomes a liability rather than an asset to the company.
Does it feel like you made their job description crystal clear, but they are not doing it at all? Don’t feel guilty about letting employees go because of poor performance. It is probably one of the top three, if not the top, reasons why employees get cut. Anyone who works for a company should know that they are hired to be contributors, not spectators.
If any worker is taking a toll on you, let them be. You may be doing them a favour. Think about it. They probably are just not the right fit for what you are seeking. They may be able to thrive somewhere else.
2. The Employee is able, but not available.
Agency owners should know this well since it is too big of frustration to tolerate. It sometimes starts okay. You hire a person based on an impressive resume and an aced interview. However, things begin to decline from the moment he or she sits down on the job. Meeting after meeting, this employee becomes less and less concerned with the work result.
Common symptoms of this problem may include frequent tardiness and absences, excessive leave requests, numerous missed deadlines, late arrival and early departure from the office, and unreasonable lack of energy.
There are also some cases where employees are physically present but seem to have left their brains at home. There is no use holding on to these people. If passion is not there, it will be hard to put one’s hand to the plough.
3. The employee has committed a grave offence.
It is a reality. Things like this do happen. As much as we wish it doesn’t, it does, and I think one way we could look at this reality from a positive perspective is how everyone learns from these seasons.
Among these offences, the most notable are gossiping and lousy mouthing (especially about the top management people), stealing, using company property for personal use, sexual assault, dishonesty, malice and physical/verbal assault towards co-workers. If one these reflects your reasons too, then it is rightfully time to let your employee go so they can move on and start again somewhere else.
ESTABLISH YOUR WHY AND HOLD FIRMLY TO IT. The more you understand your reasons yourself, the better and effortless you’ll be able to explain them to your employee. The last thing you want is stutter in front of your employee while releasing your decision. You should be able to look them in the eye directly, say your piece sincerely and end the conversation firmly. It all starts with your why.
Also, ESTABLISH YOUR WHY NOT, TOO. If you don’t push through with it, know that it will not only affect you but your whole company. Some of the things I mentioned above are entirely contagious, like gossiping, laziness and apathy.
If you know you have to fire someone, yet held it off and it caused a smile fire to turn into a forest fire after a few months, then it’s all on you. If you don’t go with your conviction, you are not a good leader as an agency owner. Ouch. Better off killing the rat inside a ship, than letting it sink. Practice partnering a stable process with professionalism, and you’ll go a long way. After all, a business is still a business.
“Dealing with employee issues can be difficult,
But not dealing with them can be worse.”
-Paul Foster, Founder and CEO of The Business Therapist
HOW DO I END IT?
I’ve imagined a few scenarios in my head on how I will execute the process of termination, and each always ends with the employee going ballistic over the bad news. The worst–excessive crying, panic attacks, begging, to begging while sobbing to begging and crying and wailing plus chairs flying, cursing and screaming, filing lawsuits — you get the picture.
When I started my very own agency, I had to accept that the process of firing employees is part of the business. Hence, I gathered everything that I can learn on how to do it the best way possible; best for me, for the employee and the company.
Let’s go and take a look at some of the essential DOs and DON’Ts on how to fire an employee from an agency. Some of them are valuable tips I learned from books, podcasts, experiences of colleagues and successful people from my network–wrapped into a simple yet, memorable formula to help business owners in this area.
But before we unveil the tips, try to take a look at the scenarios below. They’re different ways I thought were best to pursue. Did we have the same thoughts?
Scenario 1: Go for Honesty
Be clear and straight to the point. Do it quick, swift and professional. Lay down all the reasons why you’ve come up with the decision. Make sure to make the situation appear black and white and leave no room for misunderstanding. The last thing you’d want is to be vague that you will have to fire the employee again in the same conversation.
What Can Go Wrong:
Although honesty is is the best way to go (and most people say they appreciate honesty more than any other approach), it will not lessen the shock or the pain. You may also come across as cold and indifferent to the consequences they will face because of unemployment.
Scenario 2: Go for Sympathy
Put yourself in their shoes. Be sensitive. Show them total support as to how they will handle the situation. Do your best to appear more understanding and maybe, try to shed a little tear or two.
What Can Go Wrong:
Coming off as cold and insensitive has its cons, but going the opposite way has, too. Once you handle a professional meeting acknowledging emotions too much, the rest of the meeting will be, well–emotional. You won’t get the point across. You and your company will inevitably be in a bad light. And trust me, it will be a long meeting.
You and your employee might also forget what you’ve been talking about in the first place. Moreover, because too much sympathy clouds a person’s logic, you might end up changing your mind thanks to guilt. Then, you’ll have to fire him all over again the next day because the numbers aren’t changing.
Scenario 3: Go for reasoning.
Talk calmly to avoid triggering emotions. Use your reasons as a clear basis for the decision. If the decision was because of the employee’s poor performance, then state how it affected the whole company’s operation and goals. Prepare printouts and testimonials. Back it up with documents indicating previous agreements to being subject to performance evaluation.
What Can Go Wrong:
Watch out for debates. Some employees might also claim that you’re the boss and you’re blaming the people and the systems for your company’s outcome. The conversation can too quickly turn into a game of ‘whoever can think of the best reasons, win.’
Some employees are also not that comfortable (but they should be) when it comes to serving them documents before laying them off, especially the ones who have been in the company long before the creation of the world. They could easily think you’re just faultfinding and say, ‘What about all the things I’ve done? Aren’t they in your paper?’
Scenario 4: Go for a light discussion.
Be friendly. Ask about how their family is doing. Create a comfortable atmosphere for you both. Talk about how the company is and how you’re doing. Maybe talk about the guys from the IT department and who ate whose lunch in the pantry fridge.
You know, so that you can give yourself a chance to look like a nice guy and maybe he’ll think his sudden unemployment is not all your fault. Perhaps he’ll give you a break.
What Can Go Wrong:
Firing someone should never be as a ‘light situation’. Remember that your employee’s family is probably solely counting on this employee’s job and you’re taking it away. Your funny and light mood might send the wrong signal as if you’re going to deliver good news like a promotion. You can expect a sudden mood change when that happens. They’re not going to feel prepared for the worst that could happen.
There is NO perfect formula on how you can fire employees from an agency without any harm or offence done. Everyone has a personality, I believe, that is truly unique from each other so an approach that may work with one may not work with all. However, I have gathered a few simple hacks on how to terminate an employee with an eighty percent chance it will not end in lawsuits.
FOLLOW The Process, Or In This Instance, Make Sure You HAVE A Process.
Big or small, it is your responsibility as an agency owner to let your employees know that your company is an establishment with rules and you are very keen with implementation. If your agency does not have a process (either with the use of a handbook or contract), you will have nothing to base your decisions upon and your actions will be called out as unfair.
Chances are, your employee will ask for specific grounds for termination. Better to be prepared.
Everyone is worth to undergo the due process, as our law also indicates. It is way better and safer if you can let your employees go through something like it no matter how poor they may be performing. I’m sure you’ve heard of verbal warnings, written warnings, first and second offences until you’ve reached suspension.
Still, if no change occurred, you may proceed with termination. Just make sure everything is written down to its specifics, no matter what area.
Detailing is key.
When you get to that final moment that you have to dismiss an employee for whatever grounds, you’ll need to have documents with you. Reason being, the papers will be able to reflect on how they led you to a regretful decision. Just be careful not to point out that all the mistakes and failures toward him alone. Remember also to empathise. He may have been 95% responsible for his actions, but he is still part of a company that should be accountable for him. Remember to emphasise when and how the company helped the employee in terms of improvement and development. Always write down the instances you reached out, any coaching or training you’ve done together, career talks, and all the extra chances and considerations you’ve given. Also, make sure that you have him signed on every document for proof that the employee acknowledges everything.
“It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”
It doesn’t even stop to how you say it. To communicate effectively, you have to consider a lot more factors. How you set the meeting is also equally important. Make sure to set a formal meeting with your employee and don’t just talk about it casually in the cafeteria or the parking lot.
How you set up the ‘big talk’ will say a lot about how you value your employees. Maintaining a positive image and relationship with your employees is essential. Devote enough time to listen intently during the whole discussion. Say your piece clearly, establish eye contact and use body language to help you ease into your points.
What Do I Say:
There is no one-page script that you can stick to, but you can refer to this sample script below:
“(employee’s name), I have done a deliberation with all the key persons in each department especially your direct supervision. We consider your strengths (enumerate strengths) as the reason why we hired you; however, we have decided to let you go due to (reasons).
I have seen your cooperation in trying to improve your performance at work, but it still doesn’t look good at this point. I have all documentation prepared and your last day will be on (date). We would like to thank you for your valuable contribution to our company. It’s been a pleasure working with you. I hope we part on friendly terms. I wish you all the best.”
How Do I Say It:
The Good Ol’ Sandwich Approach:
1. Mention their strengths, good contributions and notable seasons where they showed good results. Acknowledge all their hard work. Do not neglect even their smallest efforts as they also invested time and effort into their job somehow.
2. Transition into your concerns. These should include their full performance history, all coaching logs, all training efforts and offences committed if there’s any. State its effect on the overall goal of the company. Say that you appreciate their work, but good intentions cannot make up for the poor results.
3. State his/her KPIs and correctly point out where he or she fell short.
4. Express your empathy. Make it short, but sincere. Say some kind words that could send them off in good spirits. Try to end in a good note so you can leave them a good impression of you and your company.
While the sandwich approach is indeed helpful, the best script comes from your own experience with your employee. The hardest time any agency owner has to assess or evaluate an employee’s performance is when he doesn’t know the employee’s performance at all. Know your employee. Learn about his strengths and weaknesses, and the rest of the script will come out better and more naturally.
Don’t Forget to Discuss the Following:
- Final pay and what it comprises of
- Identification cards, office properties needed to be surrendered, keys to facilities or vaults
- Separation agreement signed by both parties
- Health care paperwork, if applicable
Covering The LEGAL Aspects
Upon building your business, seek legal help. It is essential that you and your employees have protection in all aspects. Employees expect this from agency owners. Show your competency as a leader by knowing state and federal laws about employment and termination.
Employees who get dismissed from their jobs can always end up being upset, disappointed or angry, but it shouldn’t lead into a lawsuit. Prepare the proper documentation, do not tamper or reconstruct any of them. It should lead you or your company away from any possible accusation of discrimination or politics.
Keep all your feedback and evaluation professional. Use professional words and gestures. Don’t rush the employee into absorbing everything and leaving your offices. Use obvious clues. If you think they’re a bit in shock, let the news sink into them more until they can discuss in full sentences again.
Let them ask questions and answer them truthfully and patiently. Offer any other extra help you can assist them depending on their years of service or your company’s ability. Just don’t promise anything you cannot deliver.
If there is an area that seems grey for you or any area that we have not covered yet, we would love to talk about it more. Go ahead and drop us a message below or contact through email. We hope all of these has been helpful to you.