Manage Risks When Terminating an Employee

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This content comes from Conomikes Associates Inc., a resource on practice management tips for community physicians, practice managers and medical office staff for more than 20 years.

Terminating an employee is fraught with legal, compliance, and safety issues. While it is almost impossible to predict how an employee will react to termination, there are ways to manage delivering bad news.

Treat employees with dignity and respect. Consider the golden rule of “do unto others as you would have done to you.”  

Provide the facts. To ensure clarity of communication, it is extremely important to deliver only the facts to the employee. Prepare a script or list of bullet points to be covered during the discussion.

Put details in writing. It is crucial that the pertinent information has been documented -- and, where appropriate -- shared with the employee. For example, if the employee has failed to meet expectations over a six-month period, each instance where performance was below par should be documented and shared with the employee.

Remove the element of surprise. The reasons for the termination so should be clearly documented in case the employee informally or formally challenges the decision.

Remember that cooler heads must prevail. It is not unusual for employees who are the subject of termination to become emotional. It is important to remain calm despite tension in the room. Responding to an employee’s emotions in kind will likely escalate the situation.

Have a response plan in place. Before an employee receives bad news, take the time to assess his or her potential reaction. If you think that the employee will respond in an angry or physical manner, consider having a physician or supervising staff member on hand to assist as needed.

Have an employee exit plan. To protect the practice, as soon as an employee is notified that he or she is being terminated, e-mail and network access should be cut off. If that is not feasible, access should be closely monitored for attempts to destroy or copy company data. If the employee is allowed to return to his or her desk to remove personal items, consider having someone present to verify that the employee does not remove company assets. As an extra precaution, consider changing locks or access codes.

Source: Bessolo Haworth & Vogel, Certified Public Accountants