Even long after COVID is gone, hybrid workforces are here to stay. The work from anywhere model is wonderful for both employees and organizations. However, there will come a time when you have to let an employee go probably because they are not a good fit for your team.
We are familiar with the procedure of terminating an employee in-house but what if they are working remotely? How should firing be handled in this case? How do you let go of an employee in these difficult times? The firm that I am employed at offers vCISO services and being the manager, I was assigned the task of firing a remote worker.
It was challenging indeed. I had to develop a thick skin to terminate the particular employee that too in an empathetic way. With these guiding principles, you should be able to navigate the separation and do it as kindly and professionally as possible. These steps worked wonders for me!
1: Do Your Homework and Prepare
Never have this difficult conversation without preparation. It’s important to practice how you would be communicating to the employee that you have decided to let them go.
If there is a separation agreement/clause in the hiring letter signed by the employee, have that reference in hand before starting the meeting. You must handle this as professionally as possible.
2: Offboard Them Prior to the Meeting
Most employees have a certain level of permissions or access to the company’s shared server or software, which allows them to do their job, obviously. Before the separation meeting, it’s important to remove the resource’s access to any sensitive tool.
This doesn’t mean you are to revoke all access without even informing them that they are being terminated. Depending on the circumstances, you may keep them active on the communication software used for team communication. After all, they would have to pass off the tasks or files where they were working on and some other information before the departure.
3: Be in Touch With Your Company’s HR Rep
You are likely to need the support of your HR team when terminating a remote worker. Before starting the process, talk to the human resources department about the legal implications, communication plan, documentation requirements, etc. You can also ask for their advice on how to initiate the conversation related to performance improvement. The key is to involve them in each step to be sure you are approaching things the right way.
4: Communicate Over a Video Conference
Don’t be a rude employer! Try to be an empathic one. This means when it’s time for that difficult conversation, you should just send them a text or an email that you are planning on firing them. Instead, invite them over to a video conference.
Video allows you to read another person’s body language, tone, and facial expression. It also lets you gauge reactions so that you identify a gap in their understanding and empathize with them.
5: Have the Conversation Earlier
Schedule the termination call at the start of the day. It doesn’t feel right to make them work the entire shift and end the day with that call. Eat the frog, get it done first thing in the morning so that you can avoid all unnecessary anxieties and get the important stuff done.
6: Prepare a Document
Don’t skip the documentation. If it’s a struggling employee that you are letting go of, it’s recommended to outline the problems by creating a performance improvement document/plan. Include all the necessary steps required to improve.
Keep notes of every discussion you have with this resource for improving their performance. You never know when your organization has to give second, third, or 4th chances to that particular resource.
Compiling this documentation can be difficult especially for remote workers. You can send summaries of all your discussions with them. Keep all the email confirmation receipts.
7: Be Prepared For Questions
The employee is definitely going to have lots of questions about the termination as well as administrative details like severance salary or benefits. To save time, have someone from the human resources sit at the meeting for answering any questions that the employee may have.
The employee will likely have administrative questions and the reasons for termination. You must answer all questions honestly. This will help in maintaining an amicable relationship with the employee.
Prepare for questions like these in advance. Have written notes about everything to be discussed. It’s a good precautionary measure because you never know if an employee decides to take legal action against your organization.
8: Notify Your Team
Once you have informed the person, it is now time to notify your team. They deserve to know because they are connected to some of their team members, if not all of them. Be prepared for some emotional reactions. Get ahead of the conversation. Set a tone. No need to tell them everything. Your job is to share the basic details only.
Hopefully, with the help of this guide, you might be feeling at ease when it comes to separation with a remote employee. It sure isn’t fun but with a little preparation and empathy, you can make this process easier on everyone involved.