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The right way to terminate an employee


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No matter how hard you try, some workers are unable or unwilling to improve their job performance and must be terminated from their position. Terminating an employee is never easy, but by following sound techniques, you can make the process go smoothly.

Once you have reached the decision to terminate the employee, you must inform him or her of the bad news. During the termination meeting, be respectful and sensitive to the employee. Terminated employees often pursue legal action because they were not treated with respect during the termination process.

First, plan what you will say. Don't act on instinct or assume that the right words will suddenly come to you during the meeting. You may want a witness present during the termination meeting. If you do, chose a neutral person from human resources to sit it on the meeting. This second person documents the exchange between you and the employee in case a record of the meeting is needed for future litigation. At the end of the termination meeting, have the witnessing party write a detailed memo recounting the meeting. Never ask a fellow employee or anyone involved in the termination decision to serve as your witnessing party. If a lawsuit results from the termination, you don't want the plaintiff's attorney to identify any transgression on you part for having asked an involved party to be a witness.

Take specific steps to ensure the employee's privacy. Hold the termination meeting in a conference room away from the nursing unit. The conference room not only provides privacy but is a place where you can leave the employee to regain composure once the meeting ends.

Your words and demeanor are very important during the termination meeting. You have only one goal in mind: terminating the employee. You do not want to hurt, humiliate, or embarrass the employee; to do so only increase you liability risk.

First, announce the termination decision to the employee. Make clear to the employee that a future with your hospital is not an option. Don't use ambiguous language such as "you are being let go." Using the word "terminate" clearly communicates to the employee the exact action being taken.

Next, explain to the employee the reasons for termination. Keep it specific, objective, and short. If possible, end the meeting on a positive note by shaking the employee's hand and wishing him or her good luck. Finally, document the outcome of the termination meeting, and place the record in the employee's personnel file.

Editor's note: This excerpt was adapted from HCPro's book, A Practical Guide to Legal Issues: Skills for Nurse Managers. Check out our latest nursing resources here.