I’m happy to report that most companies have concerns when letting employees go. Unfortunately, about 30% of you are only worried after the fact.

It’s better to make informed decisions before you take action because later all you can attempt is some damage control. Use the right reason:

• Discharge: You are firing the employee and have a reason for doing so. The reason could be performance, attendance, etc. I find it best to give the employee a simple reason and hopefully, one they already understand is a problem.
• Eliminating the position: This is a red flag so make sure you are truly eliminating this position and not just the employee. My standard rule for a position elimination is that you can’t hire someone to do that type of work for at least 6 months. It doesn’t matter if you change the title; it’s the work itself that’s actually being eliminated.
• Downsizing: This is most commonly used for more than one employee as the result of reorganizing the department or the company to save money and/or reduce redundancy. Be very careful here because this is ripe for lawsuits based on discrimination of one type of another.
• Layoff: Legally, you are implying you will rehire this employee when you can. If that’s not the plan, this isn’t the right reason.

Terminations aren’t easy… for the employee or you. But they shouldn’t be. The termination reason, method, and legal risks should be well thought out before taking action.

About Your Columnist

CJ Westrick is a featured columnist for Women Taking Charge, the official blog of Connected Women of Influence, where she covers all things human resources and managing people in the workplace. CJ Westrick, SPHR, has been in human resources (HR) management for over 20 years and has maintained her SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources) national certification since 2002. She started HR Jungle, a human resources consulting firm, in 2006 to provide senior-level HR expertise to businesses without internal HR.

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