Terminating An Employee Without Any Prior Warning – Acceptable Or Not?

“You’re fired!” Two words that every employee dreads hearing one day. Two words that act as the proverbial sword, hanging above an employee’s head. These are words that shouldn’t be uttered carelessly by employers, especially when offering the affected employee zero words of warning about his/her impending doom.

An employer and employee in most jurisdictions are free to terminate their professional relationship at any time and for any reason. Known as ‘at will contract’, this arrangement should give an employer full authority to fire an employee without warning.

It’s still a good and ethical idea to warn an employee before actually firing them according to experts. Here is why:

The Employee May Actually Try To Improve Performance

Think an employee isn’t performing up to par? Want your employee to push just a little harder? A warning letter may be the right incentive! Many employees don’t realize they are doing something wrong unless it’s pointed out by their superiors. They will frequently repeat the same mistakes, severe enough to jeopardize their job. It is your responsibility as a manager or employer to inform them of this in explicit tones. Who knows they might actually leave their old work practices behind?

Not Warning Employees Can Create Significant Anxiety

Remember that your main audience when it comes to firing any employee is the rest of your staff. You run the danger of indirectly affecting and creating anxiety among other employees if people are terminated without so much as a warning. This will promote a negative work environment instead of a positive one, especially if someone receives negative feedback.

Obviously there are some highly punishable offenses that warrant firing on the spot (embezzlement, or punching/threatening someone) however these situations are pretty rare. Most of the times, it’s better to offer a word or letter of warning to erring employee. How to construct your warning letter?

Schedule a Confidential Meeting with the Employee
Keep this in mind: disciplinary action must never be carried out in public or even in front of the employee’s peers. Call him or her into your own office.

List down All Unsatisfactory or Inappropriate Behavior
Inform the employee upfront that he or she is being given a warning. Relate all past incidences that featured unsatisfactory or inappropriate behavior. Also mention all the policy and procedure violation carried because of the behavior.

Also list down consequences employee can face if behavior or performance doesn’t improve in certain duration.

Issue the warning letter or documentation of meeting directly to the employee. Also provide a performance improvement plan. Take help from our website, Leadership Skills for Life, when writing down the employee warning letter.

terminating an employee