Are There Alternatives To Firing Employees?

If it can be avoided, it’s better to find alternatives to firing an employee. In our previous post we talked about the risks a business faces when they do fire someone. The risks range from lawsuits and legal implications to the loss of trade secrets or damage to your brand.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should be held hostage by an employee who deserves to be fired, but some things should be done before it gets to this. Along with trying to find alternatives to firing, there are also steps that should be taken beforehand.

Alternatives To Firing An Employee

Not all alternatives to firing an employee are going to work in every situation, but the following are some options.

  • Make sure expectations are clear and known. Sometimes it truly isn’t the fault of an employee if they seem to be performing poorly. They may not have been onboarded or trained properly from the beginning, which is why they may seem to be underperforming or having other problems. Instead of immediately moving toward firing an employee, make sure that all expectations are clear. An employee may need to be trained or retrained on what they’re expected to be doing, and if necessary, how they should be doing it. At this time, you can also work on creating new goals for the employee, especially if there weren’t any clear objectives set for them in the first place. If you don’t have formalized job descriptions for every role in the company, now is a good time to work on that as well.
  • Ask the employee what he or she thinks the problem is. You may get valuable feedback from the employee that can help you not only avoid firing them but understand larger issues that could be occurring in the company. You might also find out that an employee simply lacks the needed skills to do the job. At this point, you may consider retraining as well. If you can close the skills gap internally rather than firing the employee and starting all over, you’re probably going to save money.
  • Create a path for improvement. This can be formalized into something called a performance improvement plan or a PIP. A performance improvement plan or a performance action plan is good because it balances helping an employee succeed with accountability for past performance issues. To begin when creating a performance improvement plan, it is important to get feedback from the employee as well as his or her direct supervisor. The PIP needs to openly and honestly address what the behavior or performance-related issues have been, and it needs to have clear, specific short and long-term objectives for improvement. A performance improvement plan should document all performance issues with objectivity and factual relevance. It should also be consistent with a well-established format, to prevent potential liability issues.
  • Assign the employee a coach or mentor. There are times when coaching or mentoring may not be an option—for example, if theft or fraud is happening. However, many times this is an option. A coach or mentor can serve multiple purposes. This person can not only help the poor performing employee meet objectives, but this person can also document what’s happening which is needed if the employee is ultimately fired.
  • Evaluate places the employee could be a better fit within the organization. This isn’t likely to be a good option in a very small business, but in larger companies, this can be a viable option. Sometimes an employee has great skills and talents, but they’re just in the wrong role. Is there somewhere else they could be more valuable or useful as compared to where they currently are? For example, maybe the employee is currently working in a customer service role. He or she may not be great with people skills or meeting sales objectives, but that same person could be highly detail oriented. The person could be a better fit working in accounting perhaps. Sometimes a reevaluation may show that while the employee is weak in one area, they’re strong in another. That can help you fill a void you have elsewhere, but also prevent the risks of firing the person.
  • Sometimes employers don’t realize how far a warning can go to help in correcting behavior or performance. A lot of employers just wait and let problems fester until they can only be resolved by firing the employee, or at least that’s how they see it. The problem with that is that the employee feels blindsided because they genuinely didn’t know they were viewed as a problem, or they didn’t know how serious the problem was. Issue formalized, written warnings that are also standardized and let employees know you’re serious, and without a change, they will be terminated.

Along with these alternatives, there are other larger things to consider in the grand scheme of your business.

First, how is this firing going to affect other groups? For example, if the employee has contact with multiple departments, what position will this termination leave them in. You need to check in with all relevant stakeholders before firing anyone, even if their direct supervisor feels it’s the right thing to do.

If you’re firing someone who has a pattern of rude or inconsiderate behavior, everyone is likely going to be happy to see them go. If the person is someone who outwardly seems great but is not doing what they’re supposed to, there are likely to be some unhappy coworkers.

Think about how work will be divided after the person leaves, how you will explain it and how it could impact their feelings.

In our next post, we’ll cover what to do when it really is time for the employee to leave. You’ve tried all the above, and the only other option is termination. There is a right and wrong way to hire all firings. We’ve covered some of this already, but we’ll go into the details of not just what employers should know, but what managers and company leaders should be trained on if they’re responsible for firing an employee.

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