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A Step by Step Guide on how to Fire Someone

Here is our guide on how to approach firing an employee. Create a strategy to define your decisions, fit your business needs and support your employees.

Look, we all know the award tension that proceeds when firing someone. Whether you’ve seen it, heard about it, or even been fired yourself, you know how uncomfortable it is. If it’s gotten to the stage of no return and you believe enough is enough, your instinct comes into play, then you know that firing someone is the best outcome for both parties.

The ideal run through would be for the steps to be a quick, clean break from the team member, however, rushing to relieve an employee could come with future risks. Making sure to take the appropriate moves can stop the possibility of a compromising business position.

In this situation, respect and integrity are of the utmost importance. We know the majority of the time these situations are not at all easy. Here's your guide on how to fire someone at your startup.

Address the situation

Define the Problem objectively

Starting with the problem that’s faced and reviewing the employee's expectations are important for weighing up the situation. Matthew Bellows, CEO of the fintech startup BodesWell says, “ “the signal to me has been, has the person stopped learning?” which can be difficult to come to terms with because the question relies on subjective judgement. The result of termination can spark irrational and emotional actions or judgements. Instead, you must focus on the evidence and facts of the wrongdoing.

Firing should be the last option. At times, we as startups hire in urgent need and it is not always the fault of the employee if he cannot fit in the organisation. Before firing them, make goals of engagement and give them a chance to prove themselves. Help them grow and achieve those goals.
Pranjal Prashar, CEO of RepUp

As a founder, the question may arise - Am I doing the right thing?

Reflecting on the situation and weighing up whether problems could be resolved can prove to be effective. Do you think that your employee can change their actions?

Richard Branson, a British entrepreneur, isn’t a big fan of firing people. In his book ‘Business Stripped Bare’ he says “ My philosophy is very different. I think that you should only fire somebody as an act of last resort. If someone has broken a serious rule and damaged the brand, part company. Otherwise, stop and think.”. Branson believes that by not taking the time to think about the matter, mistakes affect the business's reputation.

You may have been in a situation where you have continuously communicated the issue with their performance on multiple occasions. If this is the case, you may come to terms with the fact you need to progress further and strategise the termination.

Explore the underlying causes for the problem

Exploring the underlying cause for the issue may alternatively make you realise the employee is not at fault or the problem could come to a resolution. Whether the employee is not meeting their required targets or working to the best standard, it is your responsibility, as a founder, to make the judgement call of whether you believe they are working effectively or not. You must not forget to reflect on the employee's performance as well as your own. Being empathetic can prove to be resourceful to determine the step to take.

Strategise and project the steps for the firing

Having a clear strategy before you go forward with firing an employee is extremely important for ensuring that it goes smoothly and to plan. By doing so you’ll eliminate the foregoing risks.

You’ll need to take into account the following:

  • Psychological implications: How will the employee feel? Allow the employee to talk about the situation from their perspective.
  • Legal implications: Think about your reasoning. Is it legally balanced and backed by evidence?
  • Economic impacts: Will there be any financial implications on your startup?

Performance reviews

Ensuring you have consistent performance reviews eradicates the element of surprise. By doing this, employees are not only aware of when they’re underperforming but also when they’re exceeding expectations. Reviews are also a way of incentivising your employees, giving them room to improve and develop whilst adding structure to your future employee decision making. If an employee is underperforming, you’ll have the reviews documented over a period of time, giving you the chance to legally defend your actions.

During this process, plan out your strategy in a transparent manner. Being honest not only helps the business but also the employee in terms of how they conduct themselves in the future. Make justifications for every point that you have to ensure they fully understand why you cannot retain them as an employee.

If you have HR assistance, that's great. Consulting with them beforehand with advice on how to move forward with your decision is extremely important…. it’s their job to know.

Find a Human Resources consultant

For startups, it’s difficult to onboard an HR representative if it’s not entirely viable to do so for the reason of high prices. Alan Jones, CEO of Bambee (an HR management consultancy for small businesses), says that “I knew that small businesses did not have HR, and the primary reason was the price. Your HR compliance is essentially like the health of your business, just like your general practitioner”. With that said, as a startup, you should be certain to heed the benefits of an HR advisory company in any termination setting. Here are some companies that could help your startup:

Stages to follow when deciding to fire an employee from your Startup:

  • Identify the clear problem

  • Gain insight from others whether it be colleagues or a HR consultancy

  • Have ongoing meetings and express your concerns to the employee in question, making sure that you are transparent and direct

  • Evaluate whether they would be suited to a different role

  • Evaluate how their work or behaviour has affected your other employees negatively or positively

  • Decide whether they cater to your startup needs - Are they crucial to the success of your business?

  • Arrange for them to meet with your HR representative to complete the offboarding process and exit interview

Support their career transition

For some companies, being supportive of an employee's career transition isn’t considered to be mandatory. It’s definitely an option for founders who want to protect the company's reputation. To attract new, talented employees, you'll want to consider a supportive way of terminating someone to be known as a respectful employer. To add to that, you know that your employees are not just a number or a cog in the machine - They are human beings. Being supportive during termination can be gentle whilst they may be experiencing hindrances to their self confidence and ability for future confidence. Providing a support bubble for those who’ve no choice but to move on can prove to be helpful and nurturing.

Looking to hire employees for your startup?

it’s important to consider whether the business would benefit from hiring a larger workforce who have the necessary skills to facilitate this growth. Check out our School of Startups guide for further information.
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Firing an employee will have effects on your remaining employees

Whether you have a team that’s big or small, it will affect your remaining employees. You need to empathise with how they feel. The process of firing an employee could affect their workload, working hours, opinion of the company or your management. Having the resources in place to be open and understanding of how they feel is extremely important for their wellbeing and the operation of your business. You want your startup to be a safe and transparent place for your employees, so ensure that you make it that way.

Reviewing each termination

Soliciting feedback from your team and the terminated individual is important for future cases that may or may not arise. Learning from the process can aid your thought and physical processes. As insensitive as it sounds, it’s an ample opportunity to gain insight into how you can improve your termination process.

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