Hiring, Disciplining and Firing

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hiring, managing employees

This article might be titled “Opportunity, Dilly-dallying And Failure.” Allow me to explain. Hiring is an opportunity to add new strength to your business, address nagging problems of underperformance and bring in new energy and ideas.
The need to discipline someone who is breaking the rules frequently leads to dilly-dallying. This should be no surprise because discipline is an unpleasant responsibility for many managers. It is often easier to dream of magic solutions to problems with rule breakers than to take necessary action.

Firing usually results in failure rather than an easy shortcut to a personnel
problem. There are many reasons to fire someone, but regardless of the reason, neither the employer nor employee wins.

In order to avoid the pitfalls associated with lost opportunity, dilly-dallying and failure, this article offers tips to help managers deal with the challenges of hiring, disciplining and firing.

Hiring Great Employees Means Asking The Right Questions

Hiring has more impact on a company’s success over time than any other human resource action. Business failure almost certainly will come from repeatedly hiring employees who cannot complete the tasks they were hired to do and lack self-motivation and ambition, as well as the passion for advancing their careers by being valuable to their employers.

Successful hiring starts with building a reputation in the community as a good place to work. A good reputation opens the door to great employees from among the community’s pool of best people.

A manager should start the hiring process by determining what the business needs from the next people to be hired. A vacancy or newly created position provides opportunity to add an asset that can have long-lasting and helpful influence. There is more than one method for building a pool of applicants. Each employer needs to experiment and be creative before making a choice.

Interviewing is by far the most common method employers use to determine which applicants to hire. Small and family-owned companies are much less likely than large ones to have well-trained interviewers. Planning, training, preparation and careful follow-through, however, can be highly valuable to interviewers in any size business, as well as for managers who occasionally conduct interviews.  
Pay careful attention to these questions when planning the hiring process:

• Who will be on the interview team?
• Where will the interviews be held?
• Which questions will be asked?
• How will the interview time be used?
• How will the interview results be summarized and reported to the people making the final choice?

Behavioral interviewing has been found to do the best job of getting to know applicants and determining which ones are most likely to thrive as employees. In behavioral interviewing, the emphasis is on an applicant’s past behaviors as an employee. Here are some examples of behavioral questions:

• How did you resolve conflicts between co-workers when you were a supervisor?
• Describe an equipment problem you have solved in the last year.
• How did you go about solving it?
• What has been your most important accomplishment in your current job?

Avoid interview questions that may elicit a rehearsed answer, ask for an opinion rather than an experience or fact, can be answered yes or no or have an
obvious answer.

Be sure to listen carefully, avoid outside interruptions of interviews and discussion of minor side issues and pay attention to what is said, in addition to what is not.

When offering someone the position, make a written offer that includes simple, clear language after having made an oral offer. Show enthusiasm and optimism for the person chosen. Help them see that you are offering a career opportunity, not just a job.

Progressive Discipline Helps Staff Change Problem Behaviors

The goal of discipline is to create an environment where disciplinary action is rarely needed. Hire and develop self-disciplined employees. Then, take steps to
prevent disciplinary problems from developing, such as making sure everyone knows the rules and believes that the rules will be enforced fairly and consistently. When discipline is needed, use methods that have been proven to be effective, practical and legally defensible.

Progressive discipline is one of the most common ways of dealing with an employee who is breaking company rules. Four steps are typically included in progressive discipline, each more severe than the previous one: verbal warning, written reprimand, suspension and discharge. An employee is given the opportunity to change his behavior at every step in the process. The goal is for employee to change his problem behaviors, not to build a case for firing him.

It is possible that an employee’s behavior is so problematic that immediate firing is justified and legally defensible without a progressive discipline process. Some examples of these gross misconduct cases include intoxication at work, theft from the employer, false information on an application form and unexcused absence for four consecutive days.

Fire Fairly To Avoid Legal Repercussions

Some reasons for having to fire someone include:

• wrong person hired
• lack of orientation and training
• communication issues
• chronic underperformance
• persistent rule breaking
•  an incident of gross misconduct

There are no winners when an employer must fire an employee. When firing someone is best for the company, however, consider how to do it fairly, how to minimize negative impacts on other employees’ morale and how to avoid legal action charging the employer with wrongful discharge.

Legal and defensible terminations build on actions by both the employer and employee before the firing. A well-documented paper trail is essential. Firing someone should not be the result of an emotional outburst by a supervisor or manager. Careful preparation should be designed to remove as much emotion from the decision and process as possible. Review the facts. Is there just cause for such a severe action? Is there due process? Who will do the firing, when and where? Who will attend the termination meeting?

Although lost opportunities, dilly-dallying and failure are common outcomes when hiring, disciplining and firing, every manager has the opportunity to avoid dilly-dallying and failure and turn hiring into their most important human resource management strength.

Dr. Bernie Erven is a Professor Emeritus at Ohio State University and a consultant for Erven HR Services.

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