|Hiring and firing
||Hiring or firing an employee is a challenging, emotional
experience and a pathway to possible lawsuits. The decision
to employ or terminate someone will influence you, that individual,
his or her family, your team, your customers, and your stakeholders.
It is normal to experience strong emotions when making these
decisions, emotions that may hinder your ability to make effective
decisions and perhaps edge you inadvertently into saying or
doing some things that are illegal. To reduce the emotional
trauma and to be more effective in hiring and firing people,
try these timetested strategies.
Involve human resources
The people in your Human Resources (HR) department are your best
friends in these situations. Talk with them before doing anything.
Invite them to review your ideas before you take action. And have
them with you in the room when you do act. If you do not have
HR department, then involve your attorney. Either one will provide
a calming and rational influence. No matter how experienced
are, your HR professional or attorney has seen more and stranger
things than you have and is trained to deal with them. In my
these professionals would love to be more involved, if only to
see that the interests of all parties—the employer and
protected. In addition, they can add value in ways that you may
never have imagined, such as helping you avoid legal pitfalls.
them help you.
Handle each hiring the same way. For current and potential employees,
have a job description in place for each position in your organization.
Have a list of standard interview questions for each job in your
organization. Send copies of those questions to HR for review before
starting to use them, and ask HR to have your legal department review
them as well. Have standard procedures drawn up for how each candidate
is interviewed, including the interview starting time and who will
Document in writing each step of the hiring process for every candidate.
But be certain you do not inadvertently put anything into your notes
that might cause legal problems later, such as “looks pregnant.”
Send copies of the documentation to HR. Remember, the palest ink
is better than the most retentive memory.
You must also handle each firing the same, unless emergency circumstances
require extraordinary action. Document every behavior leading
disciplinary or corrective action. Document every attempt on management’s
part to coach, counsel, retrain, or otherwise help the employee
improve the quality or quantity of her or his work. Send copies
of that documentation to HR, and discuss with HR all options before
making a final decision to terminate an employee.
Focus on goals
Your decisions about hiring or firing should focus on several interrelated
goals important to the company and to you. These goals are higher
productivity, stronger employee loyalty, better team morale, reaching
a fair decision, correct behavior within the law, good public relations,
and a decision that allows you to sleep at night.
In hiring or terminating someone, you need to focus on positive
goals. Before you begin your meeting, take a few minutes to review
these objectives and share them later with the job candidate or
the person being fired. This helps the potential employee understand
the hiring process and what you expect from your team. For an employee
being let go, this review will explain the reasons for termination,
and when you outline the company’s severance package, many
employees will accept the decision more readily.
A surprising number of managers, particularly new ones, acknowledge
being nervous during a hiring or firing session. Your nervous mental
state affects your body in a negative way. Your mouth gets dry,
your hands sweat, and your bladder shrinks. But if you can overcome
these physical effects, you can also calm your mental state. What
to do? Prior to the meeting, rehearse what you will say. Have water
available for everyone attending; a dry mouth makes for awkward
conversation. Take time to wash your hands, which helps reduce tension.
Take a series of deep breaths just before the person enters the
Hiring. As soon as a job candidate arrives at your office, have
the receptionist offer him or her a drink of water or a beverage
and use of the rest room. They may have spent 30 to 60 minutes traveling
to your office, and then time waiting somewhere if they got there
early. By acknowledging their physical needs and offering to help
satisfy them, you are going a long way toward building a positive
emotional relationship with this potential employee. During the
interview, focus on the person’s job-related qualifications,
and avoid such matters as marital status, age, religion, or physical
handicaps. They are lawsuit land mines.
Firing. Before the employee being terminated arrives, have a box
of tissues ready. Under the unusual emotional stress of being fired,
many people cry, just as they do at weddings and funerals. The people
you are sure will not weep, will; the ones you think will, might
not. If the person cries, offer a tissue and wait until he or she
regains composure. If it seems appropriate, you could offer a drink
of water or a brief break. Be compassionate and helpful. By doing
so, you are going a long way toward providing dignity to another
human being in an otherwise awkward and painful circumstance.
How you treat your candidates during the hiring process, and how
you treat them during termination, is how your team will treat your
customers. Treat your employees with courtesy, respect, dignity,
and compassion, and they will treat you and your customers likewise.
It is not the people you fire who come back to haunt you. It is
the ones you don’t fire who come back to your facility every
day to damage the work environment and your business.
So hire wisely. Then train, empower, and motivate your team members.
If necessary, provide discipline and corrective action. But if nothing
works, move the offending employee out the door.
Lou Carloni is an industrial
psychologist and president of SMBC,
Inc., a training and consulting firm in Odenton, Maryland. He
is not an attorney, and none of his suggestions should be considered
as a legal opinion. Consult your attorney before taking any action
in these matters.