There are many skills that small business owners have already acquired by the time they open their doors. Many small businesses begin with one person working from the trunk of their car, their kitchen or from their laptop at the local coffee shop. As their small business grows, so do the complications. Owners find themselves in the position where they need to hire help to facilitate their small business' expansion. In a perfect world, you'd never have to fire an employee. Unfortunately we do not live in a perfect world. I know this may sound odd, but if you fire an employee the right way, this circumstance will go from one that is painful to a positive experience for the employee as well as your small business.
Lay down the rules from Day One.
It is unrealistic to expect that an employee will instinctively know what is expected of them; whether defining the scope of work or outlining what offenses will cause their dismissal. So always be clear. A good rule of thumb to follow is, "Where there is a clear understanding there can be no misunderstanding."
Always let an employee know when they are committing negative behaviors immediately.
It makes no sense to delay the process of correcting an employee when they are doing something that you feel is counterproductive to your small business prospering. If you don't tell them when they are doing something wrong, then how will they know to stop doing it?
Give specific instruction as to how you would like that employee to correct the negative behavior.
Telling an employee what they are doing wrong is not enough. You must then explain to that employee specifically, what you would prefer they do.
Never discipline/fire an employee in front of customers or other employees.
Not only is this behavior the height of unprofessionalism, but it alienates your customers and employees. This type of behavior also breeds contempt within the most amiable employees. Not all employees that should be let go are lazy, dishonest, incompetent, insubordinate or stupid who "deserve" to be fired. Often times small business owners find themselves in a position where cut-backs are necessary due to a sluggish economy. Treating everyone with empathy goes a very long way on many fronts.
Be clear when giving reasons for an employee's dismissal.
If that employee is lazy, tell them. If they are just not adapting quickly enough, say that. If that employee is not happy at work and it shows in their attitude and performance, then express this. Losing a job may be painful, but that doesn't mean that it can't be a learning process for the employee that you must fire.
Give strong professional recommendations when appropriate.
There have only been a very small number of people that I have had to fire that I actually didn't mind firing. The rest of the time, it was unpleasant because that employee was trying very hard, was professional and punctual. Unfortunately, if an employee just wasn't suited for the position then it was necessary to let them go. During these circumstances I would explain to that employee, I felt it was better for them if they were free to find other employment. Employment where their talents could be better utilized, thus allowing them to be far more productive and happy. I would tell them that it just made no sense to keep an employee in a position where they were obviously unproductive, frustrated and unhappy. In these circumstances I would hear from the employees somewhere down the line that though they were initially upset that I had to fire them, they went on to find other positions where they were far happier and did most certainly excel.
As a serial entrepreneur and management consultant, I have found that this outcome was a win/win situation for me, my clients and the employees for whom I was responsible.
*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a small business story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.
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