Making an employment change is a big deal. It’s hard, even when it’s voluntary, because we have so much of our identities wrapped up in what we do.

Nobody likes getting fired. And nobody likes firing people. (Well, maybe weasels and sociopaths.) But ending an employment relationship that isn’t working is better for everyone.

The trouble comes when people think they need to be angry, or righteous, or at the end of their ropes before it can happen. It’s the blaming that causes problems. Each side thinks it is the victim of the other. And the seeds of a lawsuit are sown.

Yet, making a change sets everyone free.

So here are some things to remember when you are getting ready to fire somebody.

The Company Is the One With Power — You, or at least your company, chose this person, invited her in, and are responsible for her success or failure.

This is true even if she doesn’t do the work, doesn’t show up when she needs to, and does a bad job when she gets around to it. The company allowed that to happen — for far too long. And that means the company didn’t do its job, or show up when it needed to either. So before you give in to the frustration, notice your part.

The Company is the one in charge, and the one with the power to make changes. Too often, the problems arise because managers let things slide until they become a crisis. Holding people accountable is hard work and sometimes uncomfortable. But it is way easier to do from the start, by giving clear feedback and letting people know what happens if they can’t, or won’t, do the work the way it needs to be done.

Consider Your Other Employees — When you have an employee who creates drama and who is not doing the work well, it affects everyone. If nothing happens to change that, the employee and his problems hold everyone else hostage.

By allowing that employee to stay, you make your company a difficult place to work for everybody who has to deal with that person, fix his screw-ups, and pick up the slack.  By getting rid of him, you will be decreasing everybody else’s workload and increasing morale. It’s important to deal with problem people for the sake of everybody who is doing a great job. Why would you allow anything to interfere with great work?

Consider the Company— Eliminating people, processes, and obstacles to the company’s success shows you see the big picture and and that you care.

Termination Doesn’t Have to Involve Conflict. — The best way to fire someone is to simply accept that it is not working out, and that both you and the employee are not happy with the situation. When you arrive at this decision depends on the company’s approach to second chances. But it will always be later than it should be.

Then take responsibility for your part in it. Don’t blame. Be compassionate. And keep it short. For an excellent step by step approach, as well as great insights into the difficulties of ending employment relationships, see Jay Shepherd’s Firing At Will.

Pay Severance in Exchange for a Release— Severance gives the person time and resources to find a new position where she will be happier. It should be enough to really help the person through the transition. Employers are often worried about appearing too generous. They are scared that employees will think they are rewarding people for poor performance. If people are looking for ways to get fired, you want them out anyway.

Severance saves money. The company no longer has to pay someone who is not helping the company. And severance in exchange for a complete release of claims will save legal fees and lost productivity in dealing with lawsuits. Severance is always worth it because it allows the company to focus on doing great work instead of managing the risk of lawsuits.

Make life better for your employees, not your lawyers.

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