How to Minimize Risk When Firing an Employee
This past month, a Twitter support employee who deleted Donald Trump’s Twitter account on his last day of work (it was down for 11 minutes) was hailed as a hero by many, according to Newsweek.
When a photo of a woman on a bicycle raising her middle finger at the US President’s motorcade went viral on social media, she was promptly fired from her job. She is now CDN$140,000 richer, thanks to donors supporting her on a GoFundMe page.
They have both been glorified on social media for their “defiant” actions.
Salacious stories of employees quitting their jobs or being fired is not new, of course. Consider the infamous question one desperate HMV manager in Britain asked: “How do I shut down Twitter?” when a disgruntled employee live tweeted a mass company firing of 190 people. Though this occurred in 2013, as Mcleans quoted, “The Internet never forgets.”
Earlier this year, as an Ohio RadioShack store was closing down, administrators of a Facebook page claiming to represent the store went rogue as well, and started lashing out at customers. When a Facebook user asked on the page, “Will you be open tomorrow?” – the response from the page was, “Yes, but you should just shop at Amazon like all our other customers.”
These cases demonstrate how terminating an employee is no longer a straight forward administrative task. Mitigating risk around the “pink slip” can feel like a daunting task. Today, we need to take many extra precautions in order to minimize potential fallouts from firing employees. Here are a few points to consider if you are in considering terminating an employee:
Have clear policies for employee conduct and for disciplinary action: through this proactive step, both you as an employer and your employees know what is expected. Ensure you cover what is expected in terms of conduct both at work, and how the employee represents the company outside of work. Ensure your employees acknowledge receipt of these policies, in writing.
Document violations and take appropriate disciplinary actions: it is important to lead with compassion in difficult circumstances, however, if actions are not taken when violations occur, that inconsistency can hurt employers if future legal disputes arise. Just this week, news headlines in Australia reported an employer was ordered to pay $10,000 to his graphic designer employee after discovering the employee was using a work computer to look for a new job. The commission’s reason for the ruling? The employer continued to employ this person for 14 months even after criticizing work performance and repeatedly threatening to dismiss him.
Audit the employee’s data access across company assets and social media: in formulating a transition plan, ensure access to critical data, company files (both onsite and remote) and corporate social media accounts are blocked before meeting with the employee about the dismissal. While it may seem like this is not always necessary, it is a smart precaution to take to avoid potential negative consequences.
Remember the four emotions people feel after being fired – shock, denial, anger, grief: recognize and acknowledge those emotions when delivering the news to an employee, but do not engage in debate or feel compelled to defend the company’s actions if you encounter resistance. The kindest thing to do is repeat the information you are communicating in an amiable but firm manner, and keep the discussion focused on the future. Such actions maintain integrity, and can impact how former employees speak about their experience with your company in the future.
Considering these insights above, while taking the appropriate procedural steps to terminating an employee, can help minimize risks and potential threats, while also protecting your company culture and team morale.