You may have done everything right. You may have given verbal warnings, written warnings, worked through an honest Performance Improvement Plan and coached and counseled, but there comes time when it becomes obvious that your employee is either unwilling to or incapable of performing the essential job functions.
It’s a hard decision to come to as all of would like to see our subordinates succeed and when one fails, it is a failure, of sorts, for you and your whole team. There are a few steps you can take, though to make it easiest on yourself and the employee you are separating.
If you have done everything right, it will not come as a surprise to your employee that the time has come for them to move on. They may be sad, but they will not stare at you with a look of incredulousness. If you believe your employee will be surprised, revisit your process, because you have not done all you should have.
Focus on Behavior, not the Person
This really does make a difference. It is not the person you cannot tolerate (or if it is the person, then pretend that it is not) it is the behavior. Acknowledge that not everyone is good at everything and that there may be positions where this person would be much better suited.
Be unapologetically Truthful
Be matter of fact when discussing their shortcomings. Outline the reasons you have come to the decision to terminate their employment. You don’t need to be sorry about it or apologize for your decision. Although it may seem kind to leave the door open for them to appeal your decision, it really is not.
Offer to Help
Not that someone being terminated will usually take you up on this, but it’s a nice gesture. You can offer to review a resume, assure them that only dates of employment and title of last position will be released. Assure them that you will not contest unemployment, assuming you will not.
Don’t give References
Resist the urge to offer or agree to give them a reference. Although it sounds odd, I have had more people than not ask for references, verbal or written, after hearing they will be terminated. I usually tell them that they would not want the reference I would give.
Carried out correctly, although never pleasant, a termination does not have to be unduly uncomfortable. I have gotten plenty of hugs and even a few Christmas cards from employees I have had to terminate. It can be done with dignity and respect.