Firing an employee is a right of passage for every salon/spa owner.
Even after years in business, having to tell an employee, “I have to let you go,” rarely gets any easier.
Without question, most employee terminations are stressful and emotionally draining on owners. When you’re taking an individual’s job and livelihood away, terminations should never be taken lightly.
Firing an employee can also be disruptive to the salon/spa’s culture, especially if the one being fired has tight friendships with other staff members.
And then there’s all that stuff leading up to that decision to fire.
- The performance issues.
- The repeated conversations.
- The lateness and absenteeism.
- The persistent testing and breaking the rules.
- The drama and stirring the pot.
Because of the stress and emotional impact firings can have, I put together this 10-step “Owner’s Thinking Guide to Firing an Employee” to help you work up to, and through, a firing decision:
- Recognize the signs: It’s really easy to see when an employee is trying to learn and get better. It’s easy to identify a team player. It’s not so easy when an employee is just going through the motions to appear productive. It’s not so easy to recognize that, what an employee is “telling you”, doesn’t always reflect reality. KEY: Never get so distracted in your work that you stop observing behaviors that reveal the tell-tail signs of an employee who needs some helpful and/or corrective coaching.
- Listen to that little voice: Okay, you took a chance on hiring someone that interviewed well or had a great resume. Those early observations that caused you to wince are now flashing red warning signs and that little voice in your head is saying, “Wow … you really hired a dud.” KEY: If you truly hired a dud … you need to fire the dud. Fix that bad decision fast before it gets out of hand and begins to affect your team and culture.
- It never gets better on its own: Homeland security says, “If you see something, say something.” For owners and leaders, “If you see something, do something.” The longer any employee’s subpar behavior or performance goes unaddressed, the more you enable it … and the harder it is to fix. There’s a difference between micromanaging and coaching people. KEY: Leadership is about achieving business results by coaching people to achieve their full potential. If you ignore the importance of developing people … you won’t like being a leader and business owner. RELATED: Check out this blog post on “The TEN Worst Salon/Spa Leadership Behaviors.”
- Lock in next steps: Once performance and behavior issues are identified, it’s time to have that conversation that begins with, “Do I have your permission to speak frankly?” The most common mistake that owners make is to address the problem … but not provide next-steps to help the employee overcome the problem. It sounds like, “You need to get your retail number up. Okay?” The employee responds, “Okay,” and keeps trying what hasn’t worked. KEY: Prepare a written plan with the next steps and coaching support that will help the employee achieve a win. The objective with next steps is to avoid having to fire a problem employee.
- Scheduled check-ins: Next steps must be accompanied by scheduled check-ins to monitor progress, address challenges and to show that the company wants the employee to succeed. This is the most effective approach to address a potential problem employee. KEY: Check-ins need to be frequent … not spread out over weeks and months. Frequent sounds like, “Lets talk tomorrow or at the end of the day to see how you’re doing.” There’s something about “daily” that communicates that making progress is not only an expectation … it’s a non-negotiable. You’ll know in a week or two if progress is happening. If not, you’ll know it’s time to part company.
- Don’t pay for excuses: We learned as kids that, “I wasn’t ready. My shoe was untied,” was just an excuse to get a do over. And it was always that same kid. The formula for a successful career doesn’t change from generation to generation. It takes commitment and hard work. A string of excuses is a pattern of behavior. Excuses mean no progress. KEY: Every paycheck you give employees buys their chosen performance and commitment to their job and career. If you’re buying excuses rather than performance … it’s time to address what you’re buying. Got it?
- Own your contribution: One of the toughest questions owners and leaders can ask themselves is, “What do I own in having to fire this employee?” If your answer is that you did everything reasonably possible … that’s good. If your answer is that you didn’t address the employee’s issues fast enough, or didn’t fulfill promises you made … you have an opportunity to learn and grow. KEY: Owners and leaders make mistakes too. The ability to learn and grow from your mistakes is the sign of a No-Compromise Leader. RELATED: Grab a copy of my book “No-Compromise Leadership” here.
- Most firings are earned: Having to fire one or more employees due to financial challenges is one thing. When a decision is made to fire an employee for performance and behavior issues that are no longer tolerable … that employee earned that firing. I’ve coached too many owners that get stressed and anxious because they have to fire an employee. Of course there’s nothing pleasant about firing an employee. It’s even tougher when you genuinely like the person. And it’s especially tough when you get caught in the employees personal situation. KEY: The fact is … the employee put a lot of effort into earning his or her firing by not correcting and improving. As the owner, your company is “instructing” you to terminate this employee. You are simply carrying out your responsibility to give the employee what he or she earned – to be fired.
- Don’t ask this question: Every time I’m asked the question, “How long do you wait until you fire an employee?” my response is, “By asking this question, you’ve already waited too long.” I’m not suggesting that owners be quick to fire. I’m stating that owners often get too caught up on the “what if’s” and emotional aspects of firing a particular employee that needs to go. But she’s a big producer. But she’s a close friend with so and so and she may leave too. The list goes on. KEY: Everyone in the company almost always knows that the employee needs to go and that you’re totally avoiding it. Every day the decision lingers on, that one employee is doing damage to your culture and to you as the leader. Do what you should have done a long time ago.
- Get it over with: There really isn’t any good time to fire an employee. That’s why firing is so tough. My advice to owners is to get the firing over with so you can get back to leading your team and your company. Get that weight off your shoulders and out of your gut because it can be a huge distraction. KEY: Schedule a meeting with the employee at the end of the business day. Have a manager or senior team member with you in the meeting. Meet with the employee and get these words out calmly and respectfully, “I’m sorry to tell you that we are terminating your employment here.” That immediately transfers the burden from you to the employee. Maybe the employee has expected this and takes it well. Maybe the employee will blow up or cry. Follow the necessary Labor Laws for termination. It’s done.
Here’s my challenge to you: Do the work of leadership to the best of your ability to screen applicants and indoctrinate new hires into your culture. If you’re a service provider in your company, you must allow days each week … not hours … for leadership and culture building. Study leadership. Invest in leadership coaching. The responsibility of firing an employee will never go away … but you’ll have fewer firings to deal with if you put creating, nurturing and protecting your company’s culture first.