• Aryeh Brickner

Lessons in firing from Beverly Hills Cop - You're fired! No, You're fired!

The second installment of Beverly Hills Cop, concludes with just about everyone firing everyone else. No warnings, no trial periods, and lots of emotional decision making. When it comes to firing someone, this isn’t always the best route.

After you’ve had multiple informal chats with an employee and made it clear that their performance isn’t cutting it, and assuming you’ve also given added guidance, assistance etc. what’s next?

Some people would say, just fire them. Yank off the proverbial band-aid and get it over with. A different approach is to give them a formal warning and trial period. While both methods have merits I much prefer to err on the side of caution and go with a trial period. It is true, that often, if someone is incapable of carrying out their responsibilities, a trial period isn’t going to help them, but there are other reasons to providing an employee a formal trial period.

Why should you conduct a formal trial period?

1. It can help ease the tension with other team members. You don’t want your department members to think that their turn can come at any time. People will feel much more comfortable knowing if their work isn’t living up to your expectations, they will receive formal notice about it.

2. It can help preempt any “ugliness” with the employee upon termination. “I had no idea I wasn’t doing a good job, you never told me.” A formal trial alerts all the relevant parties, HR, your manager, the employee, that this person is in danger of losing their job.

3. It allows them to get their personal affairs in order and maybe even find a new job before they get let go. You hear stories how people signed on a new mortgage, bought a new car, etc and then get fired the next day. A formal warning allows the employee to make informed decisions.

4. Some managers would prefer to fire someone rather than have them resign as they claim it diminishes the lesson learned for the rest of the team. I think that acting as humanly as possible overrides this concern, plus you can always send a subtle but clear message to the team this this person left because they realized they would not be a long-term fit.

5. It makes the final decision less emotional and done on the basis on facts. Don’t be like Chief Lutz and make emotional snap decisions.

6. You may be pleasently surprised! If the trial is done fairly and the employee is given a real chance to succeed, you could end up with a star performer. So be sure to keep an open mind and give the employee all the assistance they need to flourish.

So before making any final decision, always give your employee a chance to do better. Sometimes a trial period is just the thing someone needs to motivate them. Next time I’ll write about how to properly construct a trial period.

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