Essential Ingredients of Good Managers, Part 4: Discipline and Termination Skills
So you think you’ve developed some great managers. You know that they know how to build remarkable teams, engage and motivate employees, and minimize your organization’s exposure to compliance risks—all while navigating the mountain of daily management responsibilities.
But then a workplace incident occurs.
Perhaps an employee reports harassment, or a customer files a complaint, or an auditor discovers a pattern of fraud. The situation demands swift, decisive action… and yet nothing happens. The incident gets swept under the rug, where it remains unresolved and unacknowledged by leadership. The implicated parties continue to report for work, day in and day out.
After a while, people start talking. Employees begin to avoid certain co-workers in the halls and elevators. Rumors spread:
“Did you hear about what he did?”
“I can’t believe she’s still working here.”
“Seems like they’ll do anything to protect guys like him.”
Eventually, the incident becomes an “open secret.” Some employees leave. Others stop caring about doing a good job or doing the right thing. Workforce morale plummets.
Despite management’s best efforts to turn things around, the trend continues—and managers start having doubts of their own.
And, before long, another incident happens.
Do you see what we’re getting at? Basic compliance, hiring, and team engagement skills mean little if your managers are unable to discipline and terminate problematic employees. If your workers don’t face consequences for their actions, it’s your organization that winds up in trouble. And we’re not just talking about low morale and high turnover, but reputational damage and potential lawsuits.
This is why no organization can afford—literally speaking—to ignore the 4th and final stage of manager development:
4th Stage: Developing Discipline and Termination Skills
What you’ll need:
- your organization’s policy documents
- your employee handbook
- an overview of your organization’s reporting and compliance management procedures
- access to an attorney or legal team
From the introduction to this series:
Discipline and termination is more than a willingness to say, “you’re fired.” Wrongful termination awards cost an average of $134,000 and can take up to 3 years to resolve. It’s essential you manage this process appropriately to mitigate risk for your company and treat the separating employee with respect during their exit.
Let’s start with the basics: Does your company have discipline and termination systems in place? Rather than figuring out how to fire an employee a week, day, or hour before calling that person into your office, it’s a good idea to develop a methodology for handling terminations. (For more information about creating a robust, repeatable discipline and termination program, read Compli’s “Best Practices for Termination” ebook.)
Determine whether or not your managers understand the process and requirements for terminating employees. Do they understand what kind of conduct leadership expects of them and their terms? Are they aware of all relevant employment laws and regulations (at the state and federal levels)? Do they know the difference between a layoff and a termination? Are they versed in topics such as progressive discipline and performance improvement plans?
Evaluate management’s ability to confront difficult employee behavior and engage in potentially uncomfortable conversations. Discipline and termination are emotionally challenging for people on all sides of the table. Managers should be ready to give employees the bad news upfront, practice empathy, and take care of every detail as quickly as possible.
What managers don’t say is as important as what they do say, particularly in termination meetings. A single misspoken word or moment of hesitation can create the foundation for a wrongful termination lawsuit. Take it from attorney Steve Roppolo:
“Believe it or not, unequal treatment often occurs when managers are too focused on being nice. Many people tasked with carrying out a termination dread the idea of being the executioner, so to speak. As a result, they attempt to spare the employee’s feelings by bending or obscuring the truth, or by offering concessions and compromises they don’t have the authority to provide. These kinds of ‘compassionate’ acts can come back to haunt you in a legal dispute.
The manager should tell the truth about what is actually going on and why that person is being let go. In your heart, you might want to let them down easy, but you need to let your brain carry things out. Make sure the individual understands the real reason they’re losing their job—because if you give a false reason, even with the best of intentions, it may end up being used against you.”
Formalize and test your managers’ discipline and termination follow-up procedures. Make sure management documents discussions about workers’ performance and disciplinary histories to ensure your organization retains a defendable position in case of litigation. Managers should be keeping detailed notes about every interaction related to employee discipline and termination, and filing those notes in the appropriate place.
Finally, use this documentation to continually review and improve your organization’s discipline and termination procedures. Data from management can reveal problem areas and inefficiencies. Get managers involved in this process by keeping them educating on all updates to your program and the reasons for those updates.
And there you have it! By following our 4-step recipe for developing management competency, hiring know-how, motivational ability, and discipline and termination management skills, any organization can whip up a team of world-class managers in no time.
Easier said than done, right? Manager development is a job unto itself. And just as managers can’t do everything alone, no company should attempt to cultivate a management team without support.
We’re here to make it as easy as possible. With Compligo, Compli’s automated workforce platform, you can…
- automatically assign and administer training, so each manager understands what’s expected of them during every aspect of the employee lifecycle;
- provide your managers access to a library of the HR forms, reports, guidelines, and tools they need to manage their teams effectively;
- help managers track compliance of their team against individual programs to help instill the values of their company, and ensure all employees stay on top of their program requirements.
Discover Compli’s Manager Development & Support Initiatives.