Firing is never an easy thing to do. I’ve had to do it twice. The first time my department director made me fire a direct report as she watched. Nothing like having an audience. But at a chamber, especially in a smaller town, it can feel like you’re firing half the area because of the connections people have. It’s hard to fire a chamber employee but here are some things to keep in mind:
The Professional Way to Fire a Chamber Employee
One chamber pro reminded the group on the Chamber of Commerce Professionals page on Facebook: “People get themselves fired. You just have to facilitate the process.” This is a good point to keep in mind. If you have given them adequate warning about their behavior — or lack of performance — and they know what it takes to improve, there’s not much more you can do.
There are some instances you may need to let someone go without placing them on a performance improvement plan (PIP) but those are probably rare situations. Most firings should begin with a PIP.
Be Specific About What They Need to Change
When my director wanted my direct report gone due to quality issues in designs he was creating, she told him he had 30 days. If there was even one mistake during that time, he was gone. “One mistake” covers a broad area. It’s not specific enough. One mistake in his work? One mistake in someone else’s that he didn’t catch? And what’s a mistake? Missing a period? Or spelling something wrong? Be specific in what you’re asking that way the employee will know exactly what is expected.
As an aside, my boss had no intention of keeping him on staff so there was going to be a “mistake” in 30 days. If you feel that way too about the employee, it’s probably best not to waste the month of your time or theirs.
Assuming they do not improve, or if you don’t see a reason to offer that option, you’ll move on to letting them go.
Consult with an Attorney Before Firing
Most states are at-will states, which means you can fire a chamber employee for any reason or no reason at all. However, there are a number of protected classes in employment law that you should be aware of. For instance, if your chamber is located in an at-will state you can fire someone because you hate the shirt they wore to work (wouldn’t be nice, but it would be legal). But you cannot fire someone for wearing a burka as that’s a religious/cultural garment and you cannot fire someone for their religion, ethnicity, or nation of origin.
While you’re going through the planning phases, make a list of all commonly-held passwords and online/software access that will need to be changed. You’ll want to give this to your IT person or change it yourself immediately after you dismiss the employee. Don’t forget social media and don’t forget to monitor social media more closely afterwards including doing so on off hours.
Fire Early in the Week
Don’t waste your time or theirs. If it’s not working out, and they haven’t improved, don’t put off the inevitable until Friday afternoon. This also gives other employees time to get over it and not stew about it all weekend wondering if they’re next. Plus your IT person, if you have one, will have time to deactivate the logins and/or change common passwords.
Don’t Call a Meeting
If you’re a staff of more than two, don’t call a meeting about the firing. That places a lot of importance on it and people may have questions you’re not at liberty to answer. If you’re office is small go around to each employee and tell them the person is no longer with the chamber and that is all you’re able to say at this time.
Put It In Writing
Finally, there’s no good way to say those words when you fire a chamber employee. The employee will only hear the death knell sentence anyway and probably won’t hear the rest of the speech you rehearsed twenty times in front of your significant other. But as a courtesy to them, place the details in writing. If you’re offering compensation or help finding a new job, place those in an end-of-service letter. It will be much easier for them once they get over the initial shock to see the details behind it.
Have you ever fired a chamber employee? Join the conversation here.