3 Questions To Ask Before Letting Someone Go

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There’s nothing quite like finding a new hire that’s a perfect fit for your team. Everyone loves making a good hire! But what happens when you realize your employment relationship with someone on your staff needs to come to an end?

Letting someone go is not easy, but sometimes necessary. There are some questions you can ask before, during, and after to make sure you are terminating in the most effective way you can.

1. Why are you firing?

You obviously know the reason you are letting someone go, but being able to clearly answer this question is vital. But more than simply being able to say the answer, you should be able to show the answer through documentation. If you are firing for poor performance, you should have documentation that shows all prior conversations regarding the undesirable performance and any action plans that were put in place to help the employee make steps to correct their performance.

This might be a good time to look at what your policy manual or employee handbook says about discipline. While policy manuals are intended to give your employees a clear understanding of what is expected of them, a discipline policy that is too detailed can tie your hands. For example, if you have a detailed progressive discipline policy, you could be leaving yourself open to a lawsuit if you immediately fire someone for stealing without having first given a verbal warning, a written warning, and whatever other steps your plan may contain. 

While you want to avoid too many details in your policies, you do want to make sure there is consistency in how matters are handled. Similar situations should be handled the same way. A good question to ask yourself when you are getting ready to let someone go is, “Would this same action be considered fireable if it had been done by anyone else?” If the answer to this is no, you may want to reconsider your next steps.

2. How should the termination be communicated?

Communicating with the Employee:

There should be as few of people as possible who know the employee is being terminated before the employee. “Through the grapevine” is not how you want someone to find out they are losing their job.

Set a time with the employee and have someone else present, like an HR representative, and let them know the reason for the meeting at the very beginning- that tells them the “what” of the firing. If it’s a performance-related termination, the “why” should not be a surprise, but it should be fully communicated during the meeting.

Communicating with the Staff:

What you tell the staff is not as important as how you tell them. If the terminated employee was part of a team, their team should be told, face-to-face, before a broader communication is sent out.

When you tell the entire staff, consider making an announcement in a staff meeting. If that’s not possible, team leaders can make their teams aware, or maybe an email will work. Whatever you decide, say something! Not saying anything to your staff can make them suspicious or even concerned for their own jobs. Keep what you say simple but true. Obviously, you can’t go into too many details with the reasons for the termination, and if you have any questions about what you can or cannot say, please seek your lawyer’s guidance.

Communicating with the Church:

There are plenty of staff positions that don’t require an announcement to the church, but if you are terminating one of your more visible staff members, some kind of acknowledgement may be necessary.

Disclose even less than you did to your staff, remain truthful, and be prepared for questions. It’s important that your entire staff responds to these questions with the same language while protecting the termed employee and the Church.

3. What Can You Learn?

Take some time after letting someone go to reflect on what can be learned. How was the situation handled successfully? What could be done better next time? Maybe a key take-away is the need for making better hires.

Here at Vanderbloemen, we understand the importance of hiring the right people. Not only have we helped churches make wise hires for their organizations, we’re pretty good at filling open positions in house too.

Finding the right fit up front helps reduce the risk of having to terminate later.Tweet: Finding the right fit up front helps reduce the risk of having to terminate later. https://bit.ly/2gmfHzO via @VanderbloemenSG

Terminations are tough for everyone involved, but there is no question that there are times when they have to be done. Hopefully, you won’t find yourself facing this situation often, but next time it happens, ask yourself these questions and be able to terminate more confidently.

How can you use these questions to help a termination in the future?

Culture Conference 2018