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What I Wish I’d Known Before … Firing Someone for Cause

May 6, 2018 What I Wish I'd Known Before 1 Comment

How much stress I would feel leading up to the actual moment. I find myself spending a lot of time worrying about the impact on the person, their family, their potential future mental state, etc., particularly if I have had a good personal relationship with them and the cause is poor professional performance rather than something more obviously "fireable" like sexism, racism, theft, etc. And, in these cases, how much less stress I found myself under after making the decision, going through the documentation and attempted rehabilitation process, and then finally moving on. Having poor performers around drags down the entire team and moving them on lifts a weight from everyone else.


That I could be personally liable for the outcome if pursued legally and found in favor of the plaintiff.
That HR would not be as supportive of my needs to meet quality and project standards as in assuring they were legally protected.
Employees who should have seen it coming actually don’t, despite best efforts to prepare them.
That it is hard, even when it is fully justified
That staff who remain behind will need to be told something, or the rumor mill will take over – prepare a statement.
That staff who remain behind will glorify the employee, even if they were previously negatively impacted by the terminated employee.


I wish I had known how much the firing manager would be put "on trial" for the performance of the "firee.” Sometimes, someone is just in the wrong job, but it seems that the employee’s manager has to own all of the employee’s failings as lack of providing direction, lack of leadership, lack of mentoring, etc.


The extensive process of documenting everything to ensure there’s no lawsuit can be a pain. I’ve only had to fire one person for cause in healthcare IT and worrying about confidentiality with the reason wasn’t an issue. There was no speculation as to why “Beavis” was fired, only a general reaction of “what took so long,” even though confidentiality was maintained. I’ve worked for companies where managers would rather transfer the coworker and wash their hands of them, rather than have to go through the firing process, which really penalizes the good employees who have to work with the bad.


That you may not get to replace the employee because of attrition. The company uses empty positions for potential attrition cost savings.


Timing is never ideal when firing someone, but timing can be better than others; we terminated an employee of middle management two weeks post bringing in a consultant team. Gave the appearance that the consultant team was changing the org chart.


How hard it would be. Internally, our employees are so well protected, it’s hard to get them out based on performance – even over a lack of showing up. They are given every benefit of the doubt, and we end up down a person for months and months, yet we’re still accountable for our metrics.


Would I have done so for anybody or was this person an anomaly. Remove all personal bias and read your rationale, asking if this were X, would I do the same? If not, expect repercussions.


Regardless of the amount of documentation or agreement from those within your department, there will always be those that feel the employee was treated unfairly. You know the reasons for the firing, but that’s not something you can easily explain to others due to confidentiality issues. If you’re going to fire someone, you have to be confident in your decision and not let pushback from others impact your team’s performance.


Don’t count on your manager supporting your decision! You’re probably on your own here.


I wish I’d known how to convince my company to let me do it. They never let us fire anyone – always has to be something sneaky, like a layoff, which sometimes has collateral damage. There are bad apples out there that need to be tossed, but our HR team is dreadfully afraid of letting us do when needs to be done.


Many not-for-profits seem to treat most people with performance-based challenges as if they have guaranteed lifetime employment and it seems like everyone plays by union-like rules. That is – many write-ups. It seems like you need to have HR in the loop well in advance of the first inkling of an issue and it takes multiple performance improvement plans, sometimes with arbitration-like discussions, to move someone on.
In other cases, where the previous "model employee" is cited by someone as having caused a non-performance issue, it seems to be guilty until proven innocent. I really fear for the surfacing of potential accusations from many years back. I have yet to hear about a "statute of limitations" at my employer. These are truly crazy times.

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Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. “Regardless of the amount of documentation or agreement from those within your department, there will always be those that feel the employee was treated unfairly.”

    Yes, this! No matter how toxic someone becomes, or how glaring their failures, it’s always management’s fault. I learned that lesson many years ago at my first management gig (in a restaurant of all places). That said, if you keep that in mind from day one, you end up placing a lot more focus on good hiring and retention practices.







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