Terminating an Employee

HR must have a valid reason for terminating the employee and the decision-maker from the top management team must be aware of the situation.

   Sabira Ranjit

Termination is ending the contract between an employer and an employee from the employer’s side having a valid reason. There could be voluntary or involuntary termination as well in different cases. Termination could be a topic that most HR managers might not want to talk about. Or this will be the least discussed topic. Hesitation won’t eliminate or eradicate cases of termination in any company. We might come across stories told by employees about how unfair the company was to terminate them without any reason. Often when there is a case of termination, we tend to generate sympathy for the employee. But what will happen if a person who committed misconduct that led his/her contract to be terminated even though the employer decides to keep them? Employees must be taken care of at all the times by employer to keep up the business. However, in this article, we will focus on why sometimes termination is better.

To run the companies successfully, most of the companies are into setting up policies and procedures. While structuring the company’s policies, we must comply with the government labor rules as well. Even from the government’s side, there are conditions mentioned where an employer can terminate employees in case of gross misconduct. A case study published in www.jt-hrconsultancy.com on August 2022 reads, “Technically, there is no legal description of gross misconduct. However, the government does use the following wording: theft, physical violence, gross negligence, or serious insubordination.

Any behavior that destroys a relationship between an employer and an employee can be considered gross misconduct. For the avoidance of doubt, I recommend that employers spell out the types of behavior they would regard as gross misconduct.”

The case study is satisfying as there might be consequences when the termination’s need is felt besides the governmental instructions. We face different cases every day which might defer from one industry to another. This is why a company must create an employee handbook that clarifies dos and don’ts and its internal zero-tolerance policies. The best way to educate the employees on these policies is when they onboard the company before they start working. The orientation program might be the best idea to let all the new joiners know about the rules before they onboard. This way they acknowledge the set rules imposed by the employer that they are expected to follow. Many companies fail to terminate employees even after gross misconduct for not being able to set designed policies in the company. This is where the bias arises. The weaker employees will eventually get terminated and the crafty ones will find a way to get away with their misconduct. Most of the time, managers seem to save themselves even after having disciplinarians on the other hand entry-level staff tend to get terminated.

Due to the lack of well-made policies in any organization, every manager, supervisor, and employee will start making their own rules. This creates favoritism, unfairness, and one-to-one decisions which weakens company strategies and brings uneven results. The strategies must be made by Human Resources that must be aligned with government rules and discussed the same to all the managers and the owner. Upon finalization, policies must be circulated to all the employees as well. Once the policies are made and signed off with everyone’s agreement, everyone must abide by the rules regardless of their positions in the companies. Often, we get to see the top management team tend to overlook the manager’s misconduct, this is also a sign that the company doesn’t have strict compliance.

For established companies, it will be a bit difficult to restructure as an employee might get used to making their own rules and deny following the new compliances. However, for any startup, it’s better to have policies from the beginning. An article published in “The New York Times,” by Lisa Belkin in 2008 stated, “If you find yourself being fired, the most important thing to remember (besides that it’s O.K. to cry) is that you’ll be in shock, and you won’t be thinking straight, so don’t feel the need to ask every question then and there. You should make sure to leave the room knowing how to contact someone who can answer your questions later on when you have a chance to calm down. Try not to become defensive or argumentative; if there are issues to be disputed, you can do that later.”

When an employee is informed about the termination, he/she tends to start sharing stories and mostly starts complaining about colleagues and managers that every HR might have faced. This happens when they are not aware of the termination clauses. Employees must be educated on termination topics too. HR must have a valid reason for terminating the employee and the decision-maker from the top management team must be aware of the situation. It is always better if the management team has discussed this as well in their daily meeting.

While terminating the contract, the incident of the date, formal termination statement, date of termination, reason, settlement explanation, and exit process need to be mentioned. Despite his/her misconduct, the employee must be given a chance to appeal for the reinstatement of his/her post within a few days of the decision being made. Termination must be always done reasonably. However, if any HR is terminating an employee in any company where there is random instruction made on termination rather than following the policies, that could be the day for HR to get intensely offended by the terminated employee.

Everyone will suffer if action isn’t taken against gross misconduct. Again, every company must identify its terms of gross misconduct and establish the company’s code of conduct. Not following the code of conduct needs corrective action. A thesis published by Ms. Brittney E. Lytle in 2010 for her master’s degree stated that “Most of the employees did not know their organization had a code of ethics.” Similarly, I doubt all the companies are taking proper action to educate all their employees regarding their ethics. So, on the first hand, informing everyone in the company from the top management level to the entry-level, it’s important to circulate the code of conduct that everyone must comply with. Secondly, complying with the code of conduct is even more important than having one prepared. Since termination is one of the harsh cases to deal with, most of the time it will be just considered. Even the top management team hid the case to maintain the reputation of the managers before their subordinates. This will only empower them to continue their misdeeds and encourage non-compliance. This is however not fair for someone to disable him/her to become better by not pointing out drawbacks.

Termination is not always bad, providing a lifelong lesson to someone for their misconduct will help them to improve. By accommodating such employees, a company would be nothing more than a sinking ship. Such a company probably starts losing professional employees and end up with harmful employees who could damage their reputation. So, gross misconduct must never be overlooked. Besides, the same rules must be applied to all the associates regardless of their positions.

I conclude with an advice to companies that an organization must always live its values and vision. Doings must be similar to preaching mottos of the company. Not all the employees will do well for your company. Warn the employee, let them know their errors, and give them an opportunity. And still, if there is a valid reason, decide on termination. You can teach the unskilled but cannot correct the ones with bad attitudes. Your rejection of their attitude might help them to understand their defaults. Help them to progress either supporting them for their good performance or letting them go for their gross misconduct. You are being good to them and your company as well.

Ms. Ranjit is the Province – 1 Head of Growth Sellers Pvt. Ltd.

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