Firing Employees Is About Maintaining Human Diginty
In 1971, Ms. Bertha sat behind her desk posting bills. As I rummaged through an old file cabinet, I found a pad entitled, report of reprimand. I laughed. I said to Bertha, “when I reprimand someone they will not need a piece of paper to let them know.” She responded, “You need to fill in that record as what you did.” I put the pad back in the file and laughed again, I knew how to handle difficult employees.
In September 1971, Mr. E, the owner of the hotel told me to fire our stock room employee. Mr. E said simply, “you do not need him.” I could not sleep, I kept running this through my mind; how, would I do this. Mr. SK was a simple man, he did his job. I handled it the first thing the next morning. I said simply, “I don’t need you anymore.” He said nothing, he reached for the keys on his belt and left. It was over, I was honest and human. Mr. SK could see I took no pleasure in firing him. Keep it simple and to the point. Later in the year Mr. SK came by the hotel, he actually had a better job. In a round about way, I had done Mr. SK a favor. I never forgot that sometimes firing someone is actually the best for the employee and for the company. Mr. E was right, I did not need him. I got control of my cost by being the one who ordered and took inventory of the storeroom. It was still difficult to fire someone because your boss tells you to. Mr. E told me to do this two more times; before, he told the operations manager to fire me.
I fired the next employee at the hotel because he falsified his time card. I knew Will was somehow getting extra time on his card. One day I released Will at 3:00pm. I suspected someone was checking him out latter in the day, giving him extra time. I watched Betty, my night cook, check out at 9:00 pm. I pulled her card and Will’s card both showed 9:00pm. The next day, I called in Betty and questioned her on why she had checked Will out. She was an older woman. Betty said she did punch his card. I believed her. I let her go to work. I started looking at the cards very carefully; in the light I saw a difference. The ink looked different on Will’s card. He had taken the block letter 3 and colored it in on the top to make it look like a 9. That day, I fired Will. This taught me a valuable lesson, investigate before firing. I trusted my feeling, the evidence pointed to Betty; but, I felt she was telling the truth. I seconded guessed myself, and made the correct decision.
All people deserve human treatment. I fired a few on the spot; but, most after an investigation. One firing on the spot was in 1974, a bellhop for the Admiral Benbow in Birmingham. I requested his driving license he said he left it at home. I instructed him not to drive the company vehicle until I saw his license. Emily and I were eating dinner in the hotel dining room. I looked up to see the bellhop and an angry man and women standing at the cash register. I instantly knew something was wrong. The bellhop hit their car on the way back from the airport. He stated that the desk clerk gave him the keys with the instruction pick up customers at the airport. He was driving in the middle lane when he thought a car on the left was coming into his lane, he move the car to the right. He crashed into their car. I told the couple to have the car repaired; we would take care of the charges. After the couple left, the bellhop informed me that the customers told him they would not tell anyone about the accident. I told him the car’s signs named our motel. I fired him on the spot. No paperwork.
The last person I fired for performance issues, the document was two inches wide. I documented each conversation with the employee stating actions he must take to improve his performance. I conducted detailed investigations, each report I reviewed with the employee. The attempt was to improve the employee’s performance. This process did not work because the employee was not in the right job or company. I and the employee come to realize this through the process. In fact, I did have to dismiss the employee.
Over time I learned, Ms Bertha is right document, document, and document. I fired people over the years without any documentation, not now. Ron, a fellow manager, told me to document everything about the process. He said, “You, the company, and the employee lose when you fire them. You must coach the employee to improve. You will be judged by the company to see if you made attempts to improve the employee’s performance.” He was right, I document each step I take to save the employee for the company. Employees are an asset of my company. They represent an investment that is valuable. When I coach employees and improve their performance, my time and patience is not wasted.
When you fire the employee keep it simple. If you follow the process to improve his performance; the firing is not a surprise to the employee. Make sure you support their human dignity when you go through the firing process. This process is never pleasant. At lease you will know you did your part as a first line manager to save the employee for your company