Sometimes the Best Option is Letting Someone Go

Gina Deveney
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For human resources staff, day-to-day functions are usually tailored to keeping employees. No one enjoys the process of employee termination, and for HR departments tasked with reducing attrition and the cost of training, resolving issues between employees and leadership or finding new functions for workers who aren't performing well in their current positions is often more productive            . Sometimes, letting someone go makes more sense, however, whether the company is laying off employees or you're firing a bad egg.

Rehabilitating a poor performer can be less expensive than starting from scratch with the recruitment and training process. Human resources staff should work with management to place employees in the right positions and provide strong planning and roadmaps that facilitate success. Sometimes, employee termination can't be avoided if the business is seeking success. Certain types of inappropriate behavior, such as harassment, a lack of ethics, or criminal activity could be grounds for immediate dismissal. Other behavior, such as poor customer service, poor team cooperation, insubordination, or low productivity should be addressed through coaching, training, and disciplinary action. If no action causes the behavior to improve, then employee termination may be the only reasonable action left for the company.

In any type of employee termination, human resources departments must follow legal requirements and maintain detailed documentation. A recent decision from a court in Arkansas sided with an employer after the terminated employee filed an FMLA discrimination claim. The woman reportedly refused to cancel a doctor's appointment when asked to do so by a supervisor. She was later fired. Though employees are guaranteed medical leave, the court found that the woman didn't prove she provided the employer with notice of her need for leave in a timely manner. Recording times, dates, and details of employee requests, supervisor responses, and disciplinary actions can reduce the chance of lawsuits and other negative actions related to employee termination.

Even in a right-to-work state, a justification for letting employees go protects an employer. Sometimes, that justification is financial. Human resources staff should always work with management to avoid laying off employees when possible, but if it comes down to a decision between current employees and the survival of the company, letting some staff members go is the obvious choice. Other times, the justification for letting someone go is productivity or performance based. Letting employees go simply because management doesn't care for their personalities or holds grudges related to previous behavior is unwise; when these cases come up, HR should resolve the underlying issues as civilly as possible.

Employee termination is not something to be taken lightly, but it is a part of doing business. Careful records, unbiased judgment, and understanding when the end of the line has been reached ensure employee terminations in the best interests of the business.


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