Leadership Update is a free electronic monthly newsletter. In it, you’ll find strategies for helping you realize your full professional potential.
- Quotable: The Pundits Speak
- Fire Drill: Preparing for Termination
- Interviewing 101: 5 Tips for Evaluating Candidates
- Communication and Presentation Skills Workshops
- Readers’ Forum: Your Observations
- Subscription Information
QUOTABLE: THE PUNDITS SPEAK
“A man was fired by his employer. Another employee asked ‘When do you plan to fill the vacancy?’ The employer answered, ‘He didn’t leave any!'” — Milton Berle, in “Milton Berle’s Private Joke File”
“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” — Henry Ford
FIRE DRILL: PREPARING FOR TERMINATION
Firing an employee is one of the most difficult tasks that leaders face. And the problems created by terminations are substantial, from high turnover costs and lengthy vacancies to lawsuits filed by disgruntled ex-employees and even violent retaliation for being fired. For example, a disgruntled former nurse at Norristown State Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Pennsylvania, allegedly took two former supervisors hostage and fired on them this past June.
One of the hostages was fatally shot and the other was wounded (full story). Although extreme, this case illustrates the fact that firings can elicit tremendous anger issuing from the many confusing feelings that being let go can trigger.
Before you reach the point of having to fire an employee, make sure you’ve accurately assessed why they have not met your expectations. Consult with your attorney to make sure you’ve documented and addressed your concerns appropriately. If you feel you have no other choice than terminating the employee, follow these guidelines:
1. Be prepared. Make sure you’ve reviewed the termination process with an attorney well-versed in employment law. Be clear with the employee about the reasons for the termination. Rehearse what you’re going to say. Anticipate questions the person may have and practice your answers. The better prepared you are, the easier the process will be for both of you.
2. Be compassionate. Even if you’re furious at the person you’re firing, the termination meeting should be conducted calmly and professionally. Being fired may make the employee feel rejected, worthless, embarrassed and guilty. There’s no need to make it worse than it already is. Also, employees are much more likely to sue you if they’re angry at the way they were treated in the termination meeting.
3. Be clear. If you did a good job of providing the employee with feedback all along, the firing should come as no surprise, but that doesn’t mean that they will be thinking clearly during the termination meeting. Don’t assume the person knows exactly why they’re being fired: review the reasons so there’s no confusion.
4. Be future-oriented. Employees who are being fired, even when they know it’s coming, often try to deal with hurt feelings by asking many questions about various issues that led up to the termination. Similar to getting over a failed relationship, moving on is part of the process that will help them feel better. To orient the person toward the future, offer post-termination employment counseling, help with a resume or reference letter, or other services that will help the terminated employee transition to his or her next job.
5. Be careful. For your own legal protection, conduct termination meetings with a witness, such as someone else in a leadership or human resources position in your firm. If you’re concerned that the employee has the potential for becoming angry or violent, contact your local police or a private security consultant for suggestions on handling the meeting. No matter how much you prepare and feel justified for firing an employee who’s not meeting your expectations, terminating someone typically has emotional consequences for the leader, as well as the employee.
Write me for advice about handling those feelings and other termination issues.
INTERVIEWING 101: 5 TIPS FOR EVALUATING CANDIDATES
A common but costly problem in many firms is high turnover. It’s not only expensive, but due to the tight labor market, it can result in a position going unfilled for weeks or even months. Smart interviewing is essential to selecting employees who are a good fit for your firm and who will stay with you.
Unfortunately, many leaders who choose to personally interview candidates use methods that appeal to them intuitively, but may be unlikely to result in a high quality selection. Here are five tips for evaluating candidates:
1. Read and evaluate the candidate’s resume, cover letter and application in advance. Many executives tell me they save time by reviewing this material during the interview as they’re talking with the applicant. This wastes time, contributes to oversights, and makes the applicant feel you don’t care very much about their candidacy. Be as prepared for them as you’d like them to be for you.
2. Have a list of questions prepared in advance. This will structure your interview time efficiently, and it ensures that you use the same yardstick to measure each applicant. You can always deviate from the questionnaire when follow-up questions are needed.
3. Talk less than the applicant. Many executives use the interview as an opportunity to talk about themselves, the company, their college fraternity days and other things that don’t contribute to learning about the applicant. Personal and company accomplishments can be communicated in writing through a company history given to the applicant to read in the waiting area before the interview. Use interview time to learn about them and how they might contribute to your firm.
4. If they’ve interviewed with someone else in your firm already, find out what they’ve discussed. Often, a previous interviewer will have follow-up questions they’d like you to ask.
5. Take notes. If you’re not comfortable writing notes in front of the candidate, write them up immediately after they leave your office. Your impressions are critical to effective hiring decisions. Memories fade over time and if you’re interviewing several candidates it could be easy to confuse one for another. Careful notes assure you will have accurate data for decision making.
READERS’ FORUM: YOUR OBSERVATIONS
“I have a time-saver for stressed out people. Put iced coffee in your breakfast cereal instead of milk. You get your breakfast and coffee at the same time!” – Rabbi Max Weiman, St. Louis, MO
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Copyright 1999-2004 by Dr. David A. Weiman. All rights reserved.