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    Terminating an Under Performing Employee

    July 26, 2022

    Before you fire an underperforming employee, read this.

    by Kiley VanGilder

    Nixing an employee from the company is never a welcome task for anyone involved.

    The hardest termination to handle can often times be related to poor performance. Despite the numerous attempts to help reset an employee’s performance and get them back on track, sometimes the employee simply can’t grasp the job responsibilities, or worse, just isn’t interested enough to try to put in the effort. When this happens, business owners have to determine what the viable solution is – often being termination. 

    There is a very real reality of many business owners allowing an employee to stay in a role while underperforming due to uncertainty of how to handle the situation, or lack of will to want to put time and effort into replacing the employee. This often results in the company just skating by. This is a problem for many reasons. 

    1. The employee is not right for the role and is costing your business more money than someone who is right for the role. 
    2. It is unfair to employees who are performing at or above standard. 
    3. Your company isn’t running at its full capacity, and if it is the extra workload is being put onto you, or other employees.

    Prepping to Terminate A Poor Performer  

    When it comes to terminating an employee for poor performance, it is important to be prepared with documentation. This documentation may look like: a timeline of check-in meeting notes where performance was discussed, performance improvement plans, disciplinary documentation, and any other conversations stored in the employee file. 

    It is best to write up a termination guide in advance so that the prep work is done and the meeting can go as smooth as possible. Have the data at your finger tips, and if possible create a letter outlining dates and specifics to back your conversation. 

    There are documents that must be, or in some cases, should be provided to employees during the meeting or immediately after. You will need to have the COBRA information ready to issue to the employee if they are covered under the company’s benefits plan. 

    If the employee has leased or been provided with any type of company property, such as a laptop, a document explaining the ins and outs of how to return the equipment should be reviewed during the meeting. If pre-paying for packing, this is a great time to provide that label or information. 

    Scheduling A Meeting

    It is a common (unfortunately) scenario for HR or management to ask an employee to hop on a Zoom call with the HR team, or swing by the HR department midway or late into the employee’s work day. If the meeting is set up early in the day, it leaves a lot of question and anxiousness – especially if the employee is well aware of their performance issues (which they absolutely should be). While it is common, it is not the best practice. 

    Instead of scheduling a meeting for mid day, plan ahead and set the meeting up for the morning or right at the end of the shift. You do not need to schedule a meeting, but rather just ask the employee to hop on a call with you. If you would rather pre-schedule the meeting, be sure it is a generic meeting topic. This includes your own calendar. Having “Termination Meeting for Kelly” on your private calendar is still a no-no just in the event someone has access to your calendar, or walks by your desk and sees your plans for the day. 

    During the Meeting

    The termination meeting should be directly to the point. Make it very clear that their termination is effective immediately and give the reason why. Don’t leave any room for pushback or discussion. If you’ve made it to termination, there should be no open discussion. 

    If conducting the meeting in the morning, it is best practice to let the employee log off immediately after the meeting. You can choose to pay the employee for their entire work day as a kind gesture, or pay them only for the hours worked up to the point of ending the meeting. Regardless, make that very clear to the employee so there is no confusion. 

    While conducting the meeting it is best practice to begin removing the employee’s access to systems. If able, ask management to revoke access and let the employee know they will no longer have access to their systems after the meeting. This helps to limit any frustrated actions being taken. We have seen where employees leave a termination meeting and jump on their computer to tell all the clients, leaving a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. We’ve also witnessed employee’s changing company passwords or deleting important documents that they had built out of frustration. To best protect the company and any clients or other employees, revoking accesses during the call is highly recommended. 

    Though termination is never exactly easy, managing a team properly by being honest about performance and documenting along the way can make it manageable without the gut-wrenching anxieties oftentimes associated with it. Understanding the importance of documentation and properly storing the documents in an employee file, providing open and honest feedback, and making the employee aware of their underperformance allows for the employee and yourself to have an understanding of where they stand. If an employee has been talked to time and time again about performance, and disciplinary action has been taken, termination won’t come as such a big surprise for anyone. Check out more in our HR On Retainer membership, and we can help you put together a plan that works for you and protects your business.

    Be sure to read our recent blog Involuntary Termination: The HR Do’s and Dont’s to get additional termination tips.






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