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Dismissing Employees: How to Navigate a Difficult Situation with Justice and Fairness

One of the most daunting responsibilities as a supervisor may be making the difficult decision to terminate an employee’s contract. This termination involves not only the supervisor and employee, but affects the entire organization, community, and, possibly, the work itself- a hefty consideration when faced with this decision.


With a common term of ‘firing,’ a formal dismissal has a negative connotation within society, and is often associated with a person’s worth, not as separate from the self. This societal connection between a person’s inherent value and their work, can prevent a supervisor from moving forward with this impactful decision. Choosing to make it can often open the door to scrutiny of the chosen employee as well as their supervisor, employer, and the overall worksites’ functioning. As a result, termination can be a source of hesitancy and uncertainty.


Fortunately, there are several resources to help employers feel confident in their assessments and balance compassionate leadership with necessary accountability. As important as it is to ensure this accountability, the mark of a strong leader is the ability to do so while prioritizing the fair, ethical treatment of their employees.


The Law of Accountability: How to Lead Ethically


People spend most of their life working and most of their days at their place of employment. It is then, of course, very important that there are guidelines and laws to ensure that both employees and employers are acting responsibly, respectfully, and appropriate.


The Law of Accountability addresses evaluation and termination while helping to maintain checks and balances throughout a work community. It can be a useful resource in determining whether your evaluations and possible terminations are just.


This law has three areas of criteria that help confirm whether an employer’s analysis is appropriate and the termination should be executed. The components are as follows: due process, just cause, and fitness for service. Used together they can help supervisor’s be confident in their accounts as well as offer support in facilitating an overall fair environment.


  1. Due Process: This component can be bluntly translated to “Don’t blindside people.” It ensures that employees have been given regular evaluations and opportunities to grow and correct their incompetencies. This topic relates to a previous blog, Inarticulitis, on how to communicate and evaluate effectively to ensure employees have a consistent, transparent stream of communication from their supervisors.

  2. Just Cause: Having a just cause ensures that valid reasons and circumstances exist for the termination of an employee. In evaluating whether there is just cause, there are several questions employers may consider:

  3. What did the employee do or not do?

  4. How did these actions, or lack thereof, affect the greater working community?

  5. Under what context did these actions or non-actions occur?

  6. Did the supervisor communicate and assist with improvement?

  7. Were there extenuating circumstances in work or personal life that contributed to the discrepancy?

  8. Fitness for service: The last component requires that a supervisor confirm that the discrepancy impacted the overall operation of the organization or administration. If the action was inconsequential, it begs the question: “is this too nit picky?”


Reframing Termination and Evaluation


Termination is the final and ultimate example of accountability and in today’s paradigm is often seen as failure or punishment. Having the penultimate symbol of accountability represent ‘punishment,’ can often make all accountability seem punitive. However, accountability itself is a concept that can be seen with different perspectives. Accountability offers opportunity for growth and not only fosters relationships within the workplace, but it demonstrates the care of the supervisor for their employees and organization.


It is important that we challenge our embedded beliefs and systems. Can we redefine accountability, including termination, as an opportunity, as an action on the behalf of the care for the overall workplace and community? McGrath’s SUCCEED with TRUE-SPEAK can help you transform your vision and use of accountability so it becomes a natural, beneficial part of your workplace. In TRUE-SPEAK, due process and just cause are at the core of every process to aid you in developing evaluative skills as well as honest, compassionate communication. It will provide you with tools to better understand, organize, and analyze complex situations.


Stay tuned for our next blog in this series for an in-depth look at the first we can take to begin reframing our perspectives in favor of a more positive angle on the subjects we may normally deem negative.

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