When you're firing someone for something egregious, like defrauding your customers or stealing, it's easy. The employee got their hand caught in the proverbial cookie jar and they know it is warranted.
When you're furloughing someone or laying them off, it's heart-wrenching no doubt, but you're not telling them they did a lousy job. You're telling them the company did a lousy job and cannot support them anymore.
But, if you're letting someone go for performance and haven't done your job, you're telling them you're firing them because you're lousy. That can lead to serious consequences for you and your organization.
So, what's in your power?*
- Set clear expectations up front
- Correct the behavior/mistake the first time it happens; ask if s/he is clear about the expectations; ask what you can do to help; jot down the conversation for posterity
- Correct the behavior/mistake the second time it happens and then discuss consequences; ask what you can do to help; document the conversation for posterity; if appropriate inform your manager and/or HR
- Correct the behavior/mistake the third time; invoke the consequence (perhaps this is the point of termination - perhaps you need to give them one more strike)
- And so on...
Next time someone on your team is a consistent performance problem and there's only one solution, do all in your power to change the situation and then sleep well!
* I am NOT advocating progressive discipline here! Depending on how serious the infraction, this checklist may need to be modified. Seek legal council before you terminate someone.