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The fine art of letting go

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Supervisor Checklist

Before terminating an employee ask yourself the following questions.

Terminating an employee, whether for performance or economic reasons, is never a pleasant task. But by documenting any performance issues, offering an opportunity to correct those issues and asking some key questions, the process will go more smoothly.

"The goal is that each party feels as good as they can about a separation, by treating people thoughtfully and considerately," says Polly Knox, human resource specialist and senior consultant at SS&G Consulting Services in Akron, Ohio.

Typically a manager and the manager's manager or human resource person are present at the time of termination. They should bring with them documentation of any performance or behavior issues.

"The person being fired should not be surprised when the separation occurs. There should have been communication about the problems prior to letting that person go," says Knox.

There are different theories as to what time of the day or week is best to fire someone. "Some believe you should do it on a Friday afternoon so that they have the weekend to draw support from family and friends. Others believe it's better to do it in the middle of the week so that the fired employee can immediately begin making contacts for a new position," she says.

Regardless of the time of day, you need to conduct firings and layoffs in a consistent fashion. In other words, don't fire one person, but not another if both engaged in the same behavior.

"Documentation and consistency are required of you as an employer," says Knox.

She recommends having an outline in front of you. "It's not a discussion at this point. The decision has already been made. If the employee protests with, 'Yeah, but...' you can revert to 'This is the decision that has been made' and follow through with that decision."

There's no easy way to deal with the emotional fallout of a decision to let someone go. If someone is going to be belligerent, chances are you will know that person's likely reaction in advance.

Always document the contents of your conversation immediately after the interaction. Offer no opinions, just a statement of what was said. "This is one more piece of the documentation puzzle that protects you in the process," says Knox.

She advises that former employees be asked to sign a form, releasing the company from any further suits as a result of the discharge. Severance packages should be made available once forms waiving all claims against the company are signed.

Terminated employees should also receive name and contact information about COBRA for continued health and life insurance. e