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Ready. Aim. FIRE!

If you are honest with yourself, you will admit that things have been bad for some time. Other employees may complain about a particular co-worker, or that worker's production has never been what it should be. The executive may have used excuses or blame to justify his or her poor performance, which caused you to offer one more second chance, but now it's time to face it. The executive must go.

Without a doubt, this is one of the hardest parts of being a CEO. You may lie awake at night imagining the scene that will play out when you drop the ax. Will there be shouting? Violence? Will the former executive hit you with a wrongful termination suit? How can you avoid these possibilities?

A careful strategy

Ideally, the termination will not come as a surprise to your executive. In fact, if you have set goals for your team and responded appropriately when those goals weren't met, your employee may have been expecting this moment for a long time. The employee's file may have documentation of unmet expectations and evidence that you have attempted to coach and guide the executive to improve. If no improvement occurred, you may have no choice but termination for the sake of your company.

To make this process as painless as possible, you will likely plan to meet with your HR leader, the executive and others relevant to the situation. Business advocates urge CEOs to consider taking the following actions during this meeting:

  • Demonstrate calm and respect during the firing process.
  • Avoid voicing blame or fault.
  • Offer a brief explanation expressed with regret.
  • Do not allow the dismissal meeting to become an opportunity to discuss or debate the termination decision.
  • Offer an outplacement package.

After informing the executive of the termination, advisors recommend you step back and allow the HR leader to complete the termination process, including the offer of a severance package once the employee signs a legal release. Your professional demeanor will set the tone for the meeting; however, having security nearby and out of sight may be prudent. If the executive becomes hostile, you may need help to escort him or her from the building.

Of course, there is always the possibility of legal ramifications following the termination of an employee. Some advocates recommend having legal representation present during the meeting, but certainly seeking advice from California legal counsel may assist you in carrying out the termination with minimal negative consequences.

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