Manager's Tips and Tools

by Manager Development Services

Terminating an individual for inability to perform


Termination meeting

Depending on the circumstances, an individual may be terminated for many reasons.  For our purposes, we’ll look at two basic instances:  immediate termination for committing a serious infraction and termination for inability to perform.

Termination for inability to perform

As the term implies, this is a meeting in which I am going to terminate an individual because they are just not able to “cut it” or they couldn’t care less about the job they’re doing. Either way, this individual is costing the business time and energy, affecting the work environment, and consuming company resources.  This doesn’t mean they’ve done anything wrong, but this person needs to go.

It’s important, as manager, that I:

  1. Make termination a positive experience.
  2. Set up proper documentation to support the termination.
  3. Refrain from using the terms, “fire, fired, or firing.”
  4. Treat the individual with respect and dignity.

1.  The trick in facilitating a termination meeting is in making it a positive experience.  Most managers dread or shy away from terminating someone as if terminating them is committing a cruel injustice – not so.

Understand that termination is a “healthy” thing not only for the company but for the individual as well.  A cruel injustice is enabling an employee to flounder in a position or profession that he or she is not capable of performing effectively.  This will create frustration and stress in an individual as they have to run faster and faster just to keep up.  It will lower their self-esteem when all their hard work goes unappreciated because it doesn’t meet standards.  And it will also inhibit their growth by not allowing them to utilize and develop the unique talents they naturally possess.

The longer an individual struggles in a position or job for which they are not suited, the more time they waist not fulfilling their inherent potential.  Tragically, many people trudge unhappily through life at a “job” that pays the bills, but will never excel because they have reached a level of incompetence with talents they don’t actually possess.

As manager, I must understand that I am actually doing this person a favor by terminating them.  And if I come from this perspective, it’s easy for me to see and convey termination as a positive experience.

2.  I want to set up the proper documentation to support this person’s termination.  It’s important I review this person’s file:  performance reviews, policies, standards, and procedures training, other training opportunities which were made available, emails confirming the objectives and outcomes of previous meetings, interventions, contracts signed by the employee, personal assistance given, etc. (this is where emails documenting previous meetings come in handy).

Terminating an employee is serious business.  I want to make sure the individual has been given a proper opportunity to prove their worth to the company, and (despite intervention, technical training, and personal assistance) is just not suitable for their position.  Even in the most amicable terminations there is always a possibility of repercussions down the road should an individual become disgruntled.

3.  I want to refrain from using the verbiage “fire, fired, or firing.”  These terms have negative connotations and imply wrong doing.

How to terminate an individual for inability to perform

Schedule the meeting early in the week (to allow the individual to start a job search immediately).  I also recommend the meeting be scheduled early in the day.

Include the individual’s supervisor and a Human Resources representative (always have a witness).

All present should sit on the same level with no one between the employee and the door.

Keep your emotions in check – respond don’t react.

Be open, honest, direct, and compassionate.

  • Inform the individual they are terminated.  Let them know that you and the company regret this decision, but that it is for the good of the individual as well as the company.
  • Explain the reason(s) for this decision.  This is usually not a surprise for the individual.  If proper reviews, Red Flag, and Come to Jesus meetings have been conducted the employee should already know they are not meeting standards.
  • Validate the individual’s strengths, abilities, and talents.  Assure them that they are much better suited for another position or field where their abilities would be better utilized.  Let them know that remaining at a job where they constantly struggle just to get by, and where their real talents are not being developed only traps them in a life of stress and mediocrity.
  • Allow the individual to ask questions.  It is all right to engage in conversation for clarification, but be aware that the individual may begin to make excuses, try to manipulate for another chance, and even get angry.
  • Remember, the decision to terminate has already been made.  This is not a negotiation meeting.

Note: Once they have been informed of termination, the individual must never be left alone.  Even the most accepting employee can suddenly turn resentful or even hostile.

  • Offer (don’t force) discussion on what field or job where their talents may best be used and in which they would have a higher opportunity for success.  Offer discussion on resources for job or career searching, possible schooling, and degrees or certification.
  • Ask the individual to return all company property.
  • Ask the individual for computer and email passwords and any codes for cell phones or any other piece of equipment to which another employee will need access.
  • Allow the individual to choose who at the meeting they would like to accompany them to Human Resources or Personnel to complete necessary arrangements for payroll (unused vacation time, accrued sick time, advanced payments, unpaid commissions, expense account reimbursement, etc.), benefits (health, life, retirement, etc.), and COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1980) information.  The individual should also give written permission for you to provide reference information should you be contacted by potential employers.

Note: Contact HR or Personnel before hand and have   them ready to receive the individual.  I don’t want a person sitting around stewing, becoming frustrated, irritable, and possibly causing a scene.  The objective is to get the

individual out smoothly and quickly.  Once a person is told he is terminated, show them respect and dignity, but do not allow them to loiter.  The longer they remain, the more sympathy and support they will get from well-meaning rescuers.

  • Allow the individual to choose whether they would like to collect their personal belongings now or after hours.  If they choose now, have someone accompany them.

In termination for inability to perform, it is appropriate to allow the individual to converse with other employees.  This will help facilitate closure for both parties.  But be cautious.

It is important the individual be accompanied and closely monitored from the time they are informed of termination until the time they leave the premises.  The person monitoring must be vigilant in detecting any negativity, resentment, or possible hostility exhibited by the individual.  If the individual displays any unhealthy attitudes or behaviors he or she should be immediately escorted from the premises.

I want a terminated employee to have an opportunity to say good-bye to peers and colleagues if the individual is positive and appreciative of their experience of Open Heaven (and most are), but once again, my primary duty is to protect my staff.

*          *          *          *          *

In conclusion, Manager as Counselor is one of the most involved, difficult, complicated, and yet, rewarding roles of someone who Manages from the Heart.  As explained in chapter 1, counseling is an “art,” which is nurtured and cultivated over time.  As a manager develops his or her counseling skills and techniques, he or she will inspire trust, honesty, openness, and allegiance in the people he/she works with.

– excerpt from “The Art of Counseling Staff”

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September 26, 2011 - Posted by | Counseling Techniques, Leadership Skills, Manager Development Tools, Mentoring, Personal Development | , , , , , , ,

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