February 11, 2016 Last updated September 18th, 2018 2,515 Reads share

Firing an Employee or Second Chance: Which One Is the Right Choice?

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You catch an employee surfing Facebook when she’s supposed to be paying attention to customers. Or she’s late to work for the 100th time. Maybe you caught a couple of your staff canoodling in the breakroom. Whatever the workplace infraction, it’s got you thinking about doing a Donald Trump and yelling “You’re fired!”

But not so fast. Is firing this staffer the only way to rectify the situation? For one, you’ll immediately have an employment hole to fill. You’ll disrupt her ability to provide for herself and her family (and you know the guilt will eat at you). And doesn’t everyone deserve a second chance? Before you let your frustrations guide your actions, consider which path is the right one for this situation.

How Severe is the Offense?

Before you do something you can’t take back, assess the situation. Did the employee break a major rule, like stealing from you? Or did she do something merely annoying, like show up in inappropriate office apparel, a situation that can be remedied?

You’ll have to remove your emotions from this scenario to make a clear and logical decision on the outcome. If her actions put you over the edge, take some time to cool off before you decide what the next course of action will be. The last thing you want is to engage in a screaming match that could turn around and bite you in the…well, you get the picture.

Sit Down and Discuss

Once you’re in a level-headed space in your head, bring your employee into your office to discuss the situation. Make sure she first knows that what she did was against company policy. Hopefully she will be remorseful and eager to get back in your good graces by correcting her errors.

Find a way to work together to improve the targeted negative behavior. If she’s coming in late every day, she needs to develop a plan to wake up earlier and get to work on time. If you’re keeping her at work long after quitting time, however, you can do your part by letting her go on time so that she’s fresh and ready to work at 8 am the next day.

Make it clear that this is a second chance, and that you will not tolerate a repeat of the behavior. This is not only for her benefit, but also for the rest of your employees, who will be watching keenly to see how you handle this infraction. If you’re lenient, everyone might feel like they have the right to act how they want, and that’s a surefire management mishap.

Follow Up on the Conversation

Once you’ve had this unpleasant conversation, don’t just sweep it under the rug. Over the next few weeks, monitor your employee’s behavior to ensure that she did indeed make strides to improve. Check in with her and let her know you’ve noticed her doing better. This is a great confidence-booster, and may help her feel more invested in helping your business succeed.

Do Your Part to Mitigate Bad Behavior in the First Place

Even if you narrowly escaped actually firing someone, this should be a lesson for you to make sure that you’ve done your work in setting employees up on the right path for success from the start. To that end, do you have a comprehensive training manual or procedure in place that you introduce to new hires? If not, how can you expect staff to follow the rules (given that there aren’t any)? It’s unfair of you to have high expectations if you haven’t actually outlined them. Sure, you feel it’s common sense not to show up to an office job in a short, hot pink skirt, but unless you have clearly-outlined dress code policies front and center, you can’t expect people to read your mind.

If your employee training policy has been nonexistent, start with a new one today. Create a comprehensive training manual with all policies, regulations, and consequences, but realize that few will actually read this document, nor retain it. Follow up by holding training sessions for all employees, and invite them to ask questions about the policies. You want full confidence that everyone on your team understands what is expected of them so you don’t have more unpleasant situations like the one you had with the errant employee. Then, when you onboard new hires, make sure they receive the same training.

When It’s Time to Fire

All those precautions aside, there are times where firing an employee is the best course of action. In the case where the initial infraction was minor but the employee failed to remediate her behavior after you talked to her, termination is likely the only solution.

And if the behavior goes against the betterment and safety of your company and staff, firing is a necessity. Some examples of this include:

  • Stealing
  • Sexual or verbal harassment
  • Blatant disregard for rules
  • Offending a customer

It’s helpful to have a termination plan in place in the event that you have to execute on it. Know how you will fire someone, what paperwork they will need to fill out for human resources, and whether you will have them escorted off the premises immediately or let them collect their belongings. It’s also handy to keep all job descriptions at the ready, since you might need to post a job ad immediately after the termination.

No one likes firing an employee, but sometimes it’s essential. Rather than avoiding what is sure to be a difficult, stressful, and emotional conversation and putting up with ongoing bad behavior, get the inevitable over with. Be frank, professional, and brief. Yes, the employee may lash out angrily, but try your best to remove yourself from that anger and focus on the reason why this person is no longer a good fit for your organization.

Before you react to bad behavior instinctively, consider whether firing is the only choice, or whether you can be gracious and offer a second chance. After all, you’ve invested in your staff, and they are an asset. Hopefully with a little guidance and reprimand, every employee stands to succeed in your company.

Images: ”Boss dismissing out someone using a post-it /Shutterstock.com


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Ramon Ray

Ramon Ray

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