Decision Day: How to Fire with Dignity & Respect

No matter how hard you work to hire the right people, every leader eventually finds it necessary to let an employee go. The way in which you fire an underperforming or poor culture-fit employee reflects greatly on your character as a leader and the values of your company.

In this short video, part of the Return on Values research project, leaders from BerylHealth, a successful health care call center, share their respect-driven approach to terminating someone’s employment.

Watch this video with your senior management team, then use the questions below to launch a discussion on your own approaches to terminating employment. 

Andrew Pryor, Beryl’s VP of HR, walks us through a termination process that begins with one-on-one coaching before it escalates to a “Decision Day.” On Decision Day, employees are given a paid day to consider and resolve the performance or personality issues at hand. They return to work the next day with a letter of intent in hand, or they resign on the spot. When Decision Day does not lead to resolution, Beryl moves toward a respectful dismissal.

With this in mind, consider your company’s process for terminating an employee.

  • How quickly do you identify underperforming or poor-fit employees? Do you move fast enough? Too fast? If appropriate, consider specific examples.
  • When an employee is struggling, do you provide coaching and accountability to help him improve his performance? Is there a formal process in place that makes this possible? Share a success story of when one of your leaders was able to coach an employee toward improved performance.
  • Beryl’s Decision Day puts the responsibility on the employee to make necessary changes. Discuss the Decision Day concept with your team. Could something like this work in your organization? Why or why not? If not, what alternative, compassionate approach could you take?
  • How you terminate employment has an impact on the remaining team, as well as the employee who is being let go. Has your process been appropriately transparent and respectful? What could or should change?

Strong hiring practices are the first step in preventing the need to terminate employment. Learn more about how to hire for culture fit in a short video, The Secret Sauce: Hire, Train, and Incentivize for Culture Fit.

Assess Your Termination Process

Think through your last employee termination, and answer the questions below on a scale of 1 to 5, with one being Completely False and five being Completely True.

  1. I identified the under-performing or poor-fit employee early, and offered coaching and training.
  2. I made the decision to terminate as soon as it became evident the employee’s performance would not improve.
  3. The termination did not come as a surprise to the employee.
  4. The actual day of termination was handled discretely, with dignity and respect.
  5. We were appropriately transparent with coworkers, and carefully managed the transition of responsibilities to others.

Scores of 20-25: Congrats on having a compassionate and well executed discipline and termination process. Do you have any advice for others? Share your ideas with us.

Scores of 15-19: Review the questions above that you scored the lowest. With your senior leadership team, design a short term strategy to develop in these areas.

Scores of 14 or below: This may be an area where your company could use further development. Work with your HR department and legal team to clearly express your desire to have a compassionate and consistent termination process in your company. Identify a strategy for revising your processes over the next few months. You may want to seek the guidance of other executives, like members of the Small Giants Community.

About the Return on Values (ROV) research project: The ROV research project is a three year partnership between the Inc. Small Giants Community and the Center for Values-Driven Leadership to explore the relationship between culture, values, and business success in small to mid-size companies. This intensive, evidence-based research will result in case studies, measurement instruments, data, and insights that will help equip entrepreneurs and business owners to lead companies that perform well in the marketplace and care for employees, customers, and communities.


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