Every cloud has a silver lining. You may not be thinking that as you sit down to deliver an employee the news of his or her termination. But the outcome of workplace misconduct can be positive if you take the opportunity to use what you’ve learned to move the rest of the company forward.
It all starts with how you handle delivering news of the termination to the other employees. And sometimes the best way to handle it is to not handle it at all.
“If there’s no gossip or rumors following the firing of an employee, there’s really no reason to bring more attention to it,” says attorney Eric Meyer, a partner in the labor and employment group at Dilworth Paxon LLP. It’s sometime just best to keep negative news as low-key as possible.
Neutralize the Poison
If there’s gossip in the office, on the other hand, it’s a good idea to address the issue with employees. “Gossip and rumors can really poison a workplace,” says Meyer. “In that situation, you may need to have a brief meeting and explain the circumstances behind employee A’s departure.” Ignoring the gossip and concerns that other employees have about the termination may create an atmosphere of nervousness and mistrust.
Opportunity for Training
If the termination was for repeated, pervasive misconduct, that was tolerated until it reached the point of action, there’s a chance that other employees have witnessed this tolerance. Any sign that other employees are engaging in similar misconduct should be addressed quickly.
“Maybe use that as a springboard for a training session,” suggests Meyer, adding that you don’t necessarily have to draw attention to the connection between the training and the termination.
“If an employee is terminated for sexual harassment, you don’t necessarily want to say to the other employees that we fired A because he was sexually harassing B,” he says. “Just arrange to conduct anti-harassment training in the workplace, without mentioning A specifically.”
Handling a termination fairly and addressing remaining issues through communication and training sends the message that you don’t turn a blind eye to misconduct and that you are serious about eradicating it. It shows employees that they will be treated fairly and clarifies what behavior is acceptable and unacceptable.
Nobody likes to work in an atmosphere in which some people are getting away with misconduct and management is turning a blind eye to it. Acting on misconduct with a speedy and fair termination shows employees that you care about their welfare too. “It reinforces to employees that you have their back,” says Meyer.