Dismissing Employees for Performance Issues

Dismissing employees is not a task enjoyed by anyone, and because Managers don’t have to do them on a frequent basis, they are often not handled correctly. Former employees and their network of friends are future potential customers, so it’s important that employees be treated with dignity and speak well of the company once they leave.

If performance issues have been handled appropriately, most dismissals should not come as a surprise to the employee. They will have had a verbal discussion with their supervisor about their performance and an improvement plan put in place with timelines. And, if there is no improvement during the stated period of time, then the employee will have received a written warning that their job is in jeopardy.

To ensure you handle the dismissal effectively, make sure you plan the meeting and are prepared. This includes:

  1. Wherever possible, terminate an employee mid-week and at a time of day when there is minimal traffic in the office. Be sure to use a private office and have Kleenex handy in the event they get emotional.
  2. Tell the employee the purpose of the meeting, but do not get into a detailed discussion where you may have to defend your position. Simply state, “due to your inability to meet the position’s performance standards, we are terminating your employment with ABC Company effective immediately.”
  3. Provide the employee with their dismissal letter and advise them that all of the details of their dismissal are provided in the letter such as applicable severance pay, vacation pay, continuation of health and life insurance benefits, compensation for sick and vacation time, RRSP’s, pension plan, etc. Tell them how they will receive their final pay, and Record of Employment, and be prepared to answer questions regarding how the company will handle references. Advise the employee that they don’t have to read the letter now. Rather, they should review it at home and return a signed copy by the date stated. These letters should be a standard template that has been reviewed by a lawyer to ensure it meets all legal and legislative requirements.
  4. Collect any company property such as office keys, laptops, parking pass, security access card, long distance calling cards, company credit cards, computer passwords, etc. Also, advise the employee when they can return to collect any personal belongings they may have, which is usually done after hours with two people present.
  5. Tell the employee that you wish them luck and are confident they will find a position that is better suited to their abilities. Be sure to shake their hand and allow them to leave the premises.

Co-workers should be advised immediately that the employee is no longer with the company. A plan should be in place and communicated to staff on how to handle any incoming calls the employee might receive, who will perform the employee’s work until a replacement candidate is hired, how customers will be informed, etc.

The best way to ensure a successful employee termination, besides the steps above is to ensure you have a solid progressive discipline policy. I have provided below a sample progressive discipline policy you can follow.

Sample Progressive Discipline Policy

Preceding termination the following progressive discipline actions should be performed given the nature of the offense (serious offenses such as physical or sexual assault and/or theft will have zero tolerance).

1. Verbal Warning

  • Employee will be given a verbal warning regarding the undesirable behavior or action.
  • Employee will be given an explanation of when and how the behavior or action took place. This will include the reason as to why the behavior or action was unacceptable
  • Employee will be given an opportunity to explain the situation and their actions. This should be his/her opportunity to give their side of the story.
  • Employee will be given a description the desirable and/or acceptable behavior or actions.
  • Employee will be informed that further disciplinary action, up to and including termination, will follow if unacceptable behavior continues.
  • Employee will be explained that the incident will not go into their file, but that it will be taken note of in order to follow up on possible further disciplinary incidents.

NOTE: Verbal warnings are given for the following reasons:
First late arrival for scheduled shift, first incident of not following proper work procedures, and first incident of not adhering to appearance rules such as a wrinkled shirt or being unshaven.

2. Written Warning

  • Employee will be given a written warning regarding his/her undesirable behavior or action in the event that the behavior or action had either been discussed in a previous verbal warning or the behavior or action was considerably severe in nature.
  • Employee will be given an explanation of when and how the undesirable behavior or action took place. This will include the reason why the behavior or action was unacceptable.
  • Employee will be given an opportunity to explain the situation and his/her actions. This should be his/her opportunity to give their side of the story.
  • Employee will be given a description of the desirable and/or acceptable behavior or actions.
  • Employee will be provided with a copy of the written warning and another will be placed in the employee’s file.
  • Employee will sign the document as proof that he/she has received it.
  • Employee will be explained that future disciplinary problems will be addressed with further progressive disciplinary actions up to and including termination.

NOTE: Written warnings are given for the following reasons:
Inappropriate or rude interaction with a customer such as a raised voice, sarcastic comments, or impatience, not showing up for a scheduled shift with no reasonable explanation, insubordination such as talking back to management or lack of adherence to service standards.

3. Suspension

  • Employee will be given written documentation regarding the suspension in relation to the undesirable behavior or action in the event that the behavior or action had either been discussed in a previous verbal or written warning or the behavior or action was considerably severe in nature.
  • The documentation will include information on the offense and the length of the term of suspension and why the employee has been suspended.
  • Employee will be given an explanation of when and how the undesirable behavior or action took place. This will include the reason why the behavior or action was unacceptable.
  • Employee will be given a description of the desirable and/or acceptable behavior or actions.
  • Employee will be provided a copy of the suspension and another copy will be placed in the employee’s file.
  • Employee will sign the document as proof that he/she has received it.
  • Employee will be explained that future disciplinary problems will be addressed with further progressive disciplinary actions up to and including termination.

NOTE: Suspensions are given for the following reasons:
Repetitive lateness or absences with no reasonable explanation, an incident of verbal abuse to customer, co-worker or management and repetitive lack of adherence to appearance or service standards.

4. Termination

  • Employee will be given written documentation regarding his/her termination and the undesirable behavior or action leading to and justifying the termination.
  • Documentation should include information on the offense and previous disciplinary communications with the employee.
  • Employee will be given a description of when and how the unacceptable behavior or action took place. This will include the reason why the behavior or action was unacceptable.
  • Employee will be given a description of the desirable and/or acceptable behavior or actions.
  • Employee will be provided with a copy of the termination notice and another copy will be placed in the employee’s file.
  • Employee will be escorted from the location immediately maintaining the dignity of the terminated employee by not making obvious to other employees that the employee has been terminated and for what reasons.

NOTE: Terminations are given for the following reasons:
Physical or sexual assault, theft, repeated unsuccessful disciplinary attempts

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Kevin Schmidt, LPC

Kevin Schmidt, LPC

Kevin Schmidt is a passionate safety professional, who strives to end all workplace injuries.