Should I Fire Them?

This is a two-part series on “how to fire” in the workplace.

Fire is a powerful word. It conjures up fear, excitement, sensations, and visuals. In the forest, the absence of fire can actually be bad for its overall wellbeing. Some species of trees are actually fire dependent. The Jack Pine’s cones only open to release seeds when waxes on the cone melt in the heat of a fire. Fire causes new Jack Pines to grow and flourish. Amazing things can happen when “fire” hits the workplace, too.

Fire Danger Today: High

According to experts that we trust, we all need to get ready for the down year – a slight recession – in 2014. Fueling those expectations are the Affordable Care Act, the State of Nevada owing $700 million to the Feds for unemployment liabilities, and the “double” hardening of the cyclical worker’s comp market. What can employers do to be proactive versus reactive?

Lose the deadwood

Employers settle for bad performers rather than firing them. After our experience in 2009, we simply can’t endure C performers. The market is experiencing a steady supply of “A” and “B” employees. These highly qualified performers were promised by their employers that, “when the economy turns around we’ll give back this benefit and pay, etc.” The As and Bs are keeping score on broken promises. They’re looking for employers who’ll deliver.

Don’t scare off the producers

When people are fired, the company communication plan should focus on positivity of change. Because you know the water cooler talk will be, “How far is the layoff going to go? Am I safe or will the toilet bowl keep turning?” Clearly define a stopping point. Reassure top performers; give them information on financials, gain trust or leadership through transparency. You’ll keep them as loyal employees by your past performance and current vision.

Define your replacement strategy

Before firing, leadership should study the employee’s job responsibilities, then go out and get a PhD. in technologies applicable to that function. Solutions that manage processes better, create efficiencies and perhaps eliminate the need for replacement are desirable. Interviewing peers and subordinates about what functions they would like to take on, or what needs to be changed for the better – is key. Once the responsibilities are redefined, you know what to recruit for.

In every single “fire” situation, the pain leaves and your company can turn to the resulting good, digest the lesson you were supposed to learn, grow and move forward.

Written by Jim Annis, president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Peterson, Tom Miller, and Nissa Jimenez, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.