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How To Fire Someone So They’ll Thank You For It

Take time to help employees realise getting fired isn’t the end of the world.

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In an earlier post, I described how our new CEO determined that we had to fire almost half our team. This sucked for many reasons, but the main one? It was emotional. Firing a terrible person is easy, but how do you fire a good person who is a bad fit in a way that doesn’t hurt them?

That was the next lesson from our new CEO, JT McCormick. He showed us how to fire someone, not just with dignity and respect, but in a way where they actually thank you for the experience. Literally, three of the five people he fired wrote him emails thanking him afterwards.

Here’s exactly what he did:

1. Transition from coaching them up, to coaching them out

As I wrote in the last post, before you fire someone you should identify where they’re not performing, show them, set clear objectives, and give them the coaching they need to achieve them. If you’ve done this, and they nail it, great – you won’t have to fire them.

As you are working through this process, you generally know if they are going to make it or not. If they don’t look like they’re going to make it, then the process to fire them starts. You start to move from from coaching them up, to coaching them out.

Related: Have To Terminate An Employee? Here Are 5 Best Practices

Done right, the processes naturally flow into each other, because they’re both about empathy. “Once you shift to coaching them out, it’s a very delicate series of conversations to get this person to see that they’re not a fit, see why they don’t fit and where they can’t grow with the company, and maybe see a path for them towards something else,” McCormick said. “The first coaching out conversation is diagnosing whether they’re not performing because they’re in the wrong chair. Ask them, ‘If you could do any job in the company, what would it be?'”

If you get a decisive answer, McCormick said, then you have to evaluate if they have the skills for that role. You can even test them in that role.

If you get an answer like, ‘I’m not sure’, then go one step further and ask them if they could create any role in the company – for themselves, what would it be? Have them describe the perfect job for themselves. “If they can’t tell you that,” McCormick said, “then it’s obvious, and not just to you. They’ll start to see this isn’t the place for them.

“The best result here is that they describe a job that does fit them really well, but does not exist in your company. Then they not only see that the company isn’t the right place for them, but that a place does exist for them somewhere else. So the real thing you’re trying to understand yourself, and help them to see, is not only are they not performing, but they’re probably not performing for a reason, and so the best thing possible for them is to move jobs.”

2. Make the dismissal about their dignity and humanity, not corporate HR rules

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Once the decision has been made to fire them, it’s time to stop coaching them out, and fire them. Now you make it completely about them. During the firing conversation, don’t focus on why you’re firing them; that groundwork has been laid already. Now it’s time to help them.

In the firing conversation, McCormick said, don’t focus on the negatives of what they’ve done. “We’ve already talked about this over the past few weeks, so why do that? I’ll go over it quickly, and then move on. I want to focus on the best plan of action for the exit so this person can move on with their life. You want to do right by them.”

This also means not talking to them in a dry, corporate, distant style. It means talking to them and like a human, and treating them like someone you know and value and care about.

“Big corporations have turned firing conversations into these HR nightmares where they’re afraid to say or do anything,” McCormick said. “The conversations are so cold and cutthroat, they really dehumanise people. To hell with that. You know this person, they are a good person, treat them like it.”

Related: When To Fire That Abusive Customer

But this also means not pretending everything is fine. It’s not. They’re getting fired. “On the startup side,” he said, “the problem I see is that entrepreneurs let their feelings get in the way of saying what needs to be said. You have to be able to have a straight conversation with someone regarding the stark truth of what’s happening. Candor is a way of being kind.”

And sometimes, this means letting them say goodbye.

McCormick expands on that thought – “For many people, if they aren’t a complete asshole, you let them say goodbye, especially to the people they were friends with. Especially in startups where some of these folks were key in helping the growth of the company. You let that person save face and exit gracefully. You don’t escort them out with security, like they’re some animal. You treat them with respect by showing them you care about them.”

3. Let them know you will support them, and then actually do it

That final conversation also needs to let them know, very clearly and specifically, what you are going to do to help them now.

Remember – for you, this is the end of their tenure at your company. But they’re not dying. For them, this is their life.

For starters, McCormick said, his company gives the best severance package possible. “If possible, I like to pay eight weeks severance. To have a two month safety net to find their next opportunity really makes them feel safe and cared for, and they can relax,” he said.

McCormick tells employees not only will he write them a recommendation, but he’ll tell them what he’ll say in it. “I give them suggestions about what jobs to go after, based on our earlier conversations about what they want. I even offer to refer them to places I think they will be a good fit with.

“And most importantly,” he continues, “I tell them that this doesn’t have to be the end of our relationship. I’ll answer any questions, and I’ll give them any advice or help I can. Email me. Call me. Text me. I’m here for you if you need me. And I mean it. Most don’t take me up on this, but they still appreciate it, because they know it’s real. And they feel valued and cared for, even while being fired.”

And it works. Done correctly, McCormick said, the fired employees will learn a lot about themselves, and will eventually end up in a better place in their life because of what they learned from the process. “And they will email you and thank you afterwards.”

Related: Should You Fire an Employee Who Lies?

I never would have believed this until I saw it happen. Three different people from our company sent our CEO thank you emails after they left. His coaching had helped them see things about themselves, and his candor and kindness had been a real benefit to them.

Firing people is never fun, but it can leave everyone better off if it’s done right.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Tucker Max is the co-founder and CEO of Book In A Box, and a number-one New York Times bestselling author. He lives in Austin.

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Managing Staff

Why Uninsured Employees Are Bad For Business

Often businesses assume that their employees will take the necessary steps to insure themselves, but in reality, many people don’t. By covering your employees you’re not just insuring their financial futures if something happens, you’re covering your business too.

Anthony Miller

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Entrepreneurship is not for sissies. It involves dreams and risks. Cash flow is crucial and often thin on the ground, as owners juggle the challenges of overheads and growth. An entrepreneur or SME owner cannot fall back on the financial cushioning that is characteristic of much larger corporate businesses.

That said, as an entrepreneur have you ever thought what would happen if one of your staff members were suddenly unable to provide for their families due to death or disability? Would their family be left destitute? Would you as a business owner feel obliged to contribute to cover funeral costs and offer support to the family concerned?

If so, you should be considering a group life policy as the financial and emotional strain on the business can be significant. Group cover is generally far cheaper than retail cover. In many cases, employees can even cancel their individual cover and, in so doing, save a significant amount of money.

Recognising both the need and the opportunity, our business, Simply Financial Services, recently introduced an online Group Cover product. These are our top five questions asked by business owners when considering employee benefits.

Related: The Simple Way To Pay Wages When Your Staff Don’t Have Bank Accounts

1. Why is group life cover better for my employees than their retail alternatives?

Group life insurance holds numerous benefits for individuals. First, since the employer pays the premium, persistency is typically better and dependants are more consistently protected. Second, the cost of group cover is often far lower (for equivalent cover) than the individual could get directly. Third, better cover may be provided for people with impaired health. And finally, waiting periods are often waived or shortened. We’re convinced that good value group cover is a net positive investment for a company.

2. Is group life cover affordable?

Group life cover starts at very affordable levels. Meaningful cover can be obtained from about R49 per employee per month. Also, there are ways to structure the payment of premiums in such a way that it becomes part of your employees’ total remuneration package. You may for example want to structure it so that the employee makes a contribution, which is matched by the business.

Affordability is obviously important to SME owners and entrepreneurs. Costs need to be weighed against benefits both in terms of increased loyalty and job satisfaction from employees, and the potential cost to the business if a key member of staff is disabled or dies.

3. What does group life cover typically include?

Cover varies a lot from provider to provider and ranges from very simple funeral policies to very complex death and disability cover. Cover can be a multiple of annual salary or a fixed amount of cover for both life and disability, and a fixed amount of cover for family funerals. You should look out for the following when selecting your product:

  • What’s included in the cover? What benefits does it include? In our view, you should look for a product that provides good value protection products (eg. life, disability, family funeral). This caters for as wide a range of scenarios as possible. Be careful you don’t end up with a bundle of value added services (eg. free airtime) and very little life or disability cover.
  • Free cover limits. Is there a guaranteed amount of cover (the ‘free cover limit’), up to which your employees are covered for death and disability from both natural and accidental causes (full cover), irrespective of employee numbers?
  • Waiting period. How long would you have to wait, from when you take out the policy, before your employees get full cover, rather than just accidental-only cover?
  • How does the price compare with your alternatives — both group and retail — and how are premiums likely to change over time?

Related: 11 SA Entrepreneurs on What They’ve Learnt About Managing Staff

4. What’s hidden in the fine print?

It’s really important to check the fine print, to ensure there are no nasty surprises when there’s a claim. Many providers have complex policy rules and documents, and SMEs only discover the details when it’s too late. A good barometer is to look at how simple and transparent the sign-up process is, and how user-friendly the policy documents are.

5. What provider should I choose?

Make sure your insurance provider has a reliable track record, and is underwritten by a recognised insurance provider. There are a lot of fly-by-night players out there and you need to ensure that the policy you are buying has the backing of established and well-recognised market players. You need to be confident that your insurer can be trusted to pay when it comes to claim time.

6. How do I go about buying and administering the policy?

Traditionally, brokers have sold group life policies and provided admin support to their clients. Since quite a lot of work is involved and commissions are limited, brokers have not typically been available to SMEs. As such, there is a long tail of SMEs who don’t have group life cover and their employees are at risk. Fortunately, there are now options available that allow SMEs to do it themselves online and for brokers to serve SMEs cost-effectively.

You need to decide whether you want the peace of mind of working through a broker or the speed, control and convenience of doing it yourself online.

In conclusion, we believe group life insurance offers much value and peace of mind for SMEs. While many South Africans have funeral cover, very few have life or disability cover.  As an SME owner or manager, you can show you care by taking a policy for your employees.  Not only will you probably save money relative to an equivalent retail product, you’ll be amazed at how much your employees will appreciate your care and generosity. And you’ll be able to sleep easy, knowing their families will be taken care of if they die or become disabled.

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Managing Staff

Day Zero And Your Employees – What An Entrepreneur Needs To Know

With Day Zero pushed out to 2019, entrepreneurs in the Western Cape are still left with one concerning question: “What will happen to my business should the water supply still run dry?”

Jose Jorge

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Depending on their reliance on municipal water, entrepreneurs could potentially find themselves without the ability to generate revenue in the absence of water. During this time, they will still be expected to pay staff a salary, creating a potentially untenable situation for certain businesses.

It is imperative that entrepreneurs in the Western Cape region start early discussions with their employees to find possible solutions that can be implemented should Day Zero actually hit. CDH provides the following possibilities to consider:

To pay or not to pay, that is the question

The duty of the employer to pay remuneration continues as long as the employee tenders his or her services. This is also the case where an employee is prevented from working, due to an unanticipated or unpreventable act such as a natural disaster.

Related: SME Survey: Day Zero Warning Hits SMEs Hard

An employer would have to pay its employees that tender work even if it cannot provide them with any work. Fortunately for employers, labour law recognises certain measures that can be taken to minimise this burden. The two most common are short-time and the temporary suspension of payment of remuneration. It is also important to note that these two measures can only be implemented if all parties concerned have agreed to it.

Short-time is a system of work that is used for periods when there is little or no work. The system recognises that paying an employee for periods when he or she is not working places undue strain on the financial position of the employer and the employee.

Employees may either agree to short-time in a contract of employment, or an employer may enter into a collective agreement regulating short-time with a union representing the affected employees.

A temporary suspension of payment of remuneration may be implemented when there is some prospect of the work situation improving in the near future and the employer being able to provide the employee with work. This may be implemented as an alternative to a dismissal.

Where there is no agreement to these alternatives an entrepreneur will have to engage with his or her employees, explain the company’s position and attempt to secure an agreement in this regard. If an employer is unable to do so, he or she may have to consider retrenchments.

Can you retrench employees as a result of Day Zero?

This is a difficult question. An employer will have to consider whether employees’ inability to work will be for a prolonged period.

There is no way of knowing how long a drought will continue. With the unpredictable effects of global warming, the weather has become increasingly difficult to forecast. The World Wildlife Fund anticipates that if the Western Cape region receives the same rainfall pattern as last year, the drought will continue for six months.

Related: Why Innovative Employee Benefits Are Your Competitive Advantage

The Labour Relations Act, No. 66 of 1995 allows an employer to retrench employees for ‘operational requirements’. Operational requirements are defined as requirements based on economic, technological, structural or similar needs.

In order to establish that an ‘operational requirements’ dismissal is substantively fair, an employer must determine that genuine operational requirements exist. If the anticipated consequence of the drought is that a business may not be able to continue with its operations – without access to municipal water – this would constitute an operational requirement.

In conclusion, CDH advises entrepreneurs in the region whose business is heavily reliant on water to consider entering into working arrangements with their employees for the duration of the drought. This will ensure that the entrepreneur and the employee are both in agreement regarding available options should Day Zero occur. It will also help provide a sustainable alternative to retrenchments.

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Managing Staff

10 Corny But Undeniably True And Inspiring Quotes About Teamwork

As Michael Jordan said, “Talent wins games; teamwork wins championships.” He ought to know.

Blake Snow

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With two games remaining, my daughter’s soccer team is in second place. They’ve won nine games and lost only one – to the team in third place.

Although that team doesn’t not have as many star players as our side, they beat us on the admittedly widely held but elusive principle that sharing the ball leads to more goals (and better defense) than impressive dribbling or individuality.

In other words, their 11 played better as a team than the three remarkable players on my daughter’s team. Granted, the third-place team probably dropped more games than we did because playing as an effective team in consecutive games is harder to do. After all, it’s easier for a few great players to show up to every game (as we have mostly done) than a reliable team.

Related: 7 Team Building Ideas To Create An Engaged Team

In any case, my daughter’s “club” will square off against the first place team this weekend. I suspect they’ll lose unless they listen to Michael Jordan: “Talent wins games; teamwork wins championships.”

The same is true in business and life in general.

If we want to “win championships” in both of those, we have to get others involved, pass more, risk failure, allow teammates to learn from their mistakes by letting them commit them and putting the needs of the group above our own selfish aspirations.

To that end, I encourage you, my daughter’s soccer team and everyone else interested in winning to consider and internalise my 10 favourite quotes on the importance of competing as a team. Some are a bit corny. All are true.

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