On The Apprentice, firing an employee gets simplified down to two words: You’re fired!
But in the real world, terminating an employee is much more complex. It’s a big deal and carries potentially huge ramifications if handled inappropriately. Interestingly, companies with strong leadership and an equally powerful culture may be able to largely avoid terminations — with the added bonus of minimizing exposure to wrongful termination lawsuits as well.
Before we dig into this, it’s worth noting that even if you handle a termination perfectly, a disgruntled employee may still bring a suit against you (even if it’s unfounded). You can’t control what the employee does afterwards, especially when emotions may be running high, but you can certainly guide the situation as much as possible until that point. In any of these situations, obtaining legal counsel can make all the difference.
With that said, every manager will have to eventually terminate an employee. It’s really an inevitable scenario. In my experience though, companies with great leadership and a well-defined culture may encounter lower rates of turnover, including terminations.
Let’s look at why these two criteria work well as a termination prevention strategy. I like to use the acronym S.A.F.E. to explain this.
Stream of communication — When a manager is also an effective leader, they tend to recognize the importance of not only smooth day-to-day operations, but also the stream of communication that makes that possible. They place a high value on employee communication and offer a truly open door policy.
Accountability — From day one, leaders establish realistic expectations for each team member. And they reiterate those expectations, along with pertinent goals, on a daily basis. Leaders hold their people accountable…consistently.
Fairness — This piggybacks on the last one, but effective leaders believe in fairness. They treat their staff well and with respect. However, they apply the rules equally to each teammate, without indulging in favoritism.