Jasmine Ramratan

@JasmineRamratan

How To Fire An Underperforming Employee At A Start-Up

Maybe you have never had to fire an employee before. Here’s a roadmap of how the meeting should go.

  1. Tell the employee the purpose of the meeting immediately upon them entering the room. “We are meeting today because the company has decided to terminate your employment”. The decision has been made, and they are being informed of this. Don’t say “We are meeting to talk about your performance” because you’re not — that time has passed and it’s too late to talk about it. Decision made.
  2. Tell them in clear words “Your employment with the company is terminated”. Don’t mince words.
  3. Be prepared for surprise, sadness, anger. Don’t allow them to make excuses, bargain, or negotiate. Don’t doubt that the employee warrants dismissal. Many employees will bargain with statements like “I just need one more chance” or will try to make their performance deficiencies the fault of leadership “I was never counselled about my performance”. The KPIs are clear, and they get a “chance” to perform every day.
  4. Concisely explain any details of the separation including their entitlement to benefits such as severance pay, etc. Will they be immediately escorted from the building? Tell them that. Outline the immediate next steps between now and when they are completely dissociated from the company.
  5. Keep it professional. Don’t talk about your thoughts or feelings about the termination. If you are not in a position to change the decision, stick to the facts and stay in the present.
  6. Offer to help if you think that’s fair. If the employee asks, you can provide letter of recommendation or act as a reference if you want to. And remember, you can be honest if you are going to be a reference, even if what you have to say about the former employee is not stellar. 
    There’s both Canadian legal precedent, and American legal precedent on the issue of what’s called Qualified Privilege.

For more in the series on The Absolute Minimum a Start-Up CEO Needs to Know About HR

  1. How To Find Good Candidates to Hire

2. How to Hire and OnBoard An Employee

3. How to Motivate, Incentivize and Manage The Performance Of An Employee

4. How to Foster Healthy Company Culture and Avoid Conflict that Will Cause Your Company To Fail

5. How to Fire An Underperforming Employee

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