When you run a business there are going to be times when you must do some things that may be unpleasant, like terminating an employee. When you must terminate an employee that has been with you for many years, it can almost feel like you are terminating a family member. But, when you have an employee that is either chronically underperforming or is breaking company rules or defrauding the company, you have no choice. If you allow an employee who is exhibiting these kinds of behaviors to remain employed at your company, you are sending a message that you condone their behavior. This will usually cause the floodgates to open as more employees decide that since you condone this behavior, or at the very least don’t admonish employees for it, that they will engage in this type of behavior as well. This will hurt productivity, profits, employee morale, and can quickly have a business struggling just to survive.
Being Defrauded By A Long-Term Employee Is A Painful Act Of Betrayal
How do I know what it’s like to have to terminate a long-term employee? Because I’ve had to do it myself. There was one point in time where I discovered that a long-term employee had been committing fraud and was stealing from the company. When I first found out what he was doing I was very angry, then I also felt an overwhelming sense of betrayal. This was someone that I had hired, invested time and effort into training, and had seen rise through the ranks to become a valued member of my management team. This was someone that I had given opportunities to and trusted, and he repaid that trust by stabbing me in the back and stealing from the company. Making matters even worse was the fact that this employee was well-liked by many other employees and clients. I was upset at the betrayal I felt, angry that I had been taken advantage of, and worried what would happen when I terminated this employee.
I Knew What Had To Be Done But Still Struggled With The Decision
Being in charge of a business is a lot of responsibility, and part of that responsibility involves doing what is necessary to help that business to grow and thrive. That means protecting that business from both external and internal threats. When I realized that the employee in question was defrauding the company, I knew what had to be done, but it was still a difficult decision. Sitting across a desk from someone and terminating them is difficult under any circumstances. But I wasn’t going to just terminate this employee, I was going to confront him over his act of betrayal. It wouldn’t be easy to do, but it was my responsibility to do it. I owed it not just to myself, but also to the other hard-working and honest employees whose livelihood was being threatened by the act of this one, dishonest employee.
So, how did I prepare myself to terminate this employee? First, I made certain I had concrete proof that of what he did. Then I told myself that I wasn’t terminating this employee, he had essentially terminated himself through his dishonest actions. I also realized that being angry and yelling wouldn’t be in my best interest, even though I really felt like letting this employee have it. When the time came to terminate the employee, I called him into the office and asked if he had anything, he wanted to tell me. When he predictably declined, I calmly explained what I had found, told him about the proof that I had, and told him that I was deeply disappointed that he would betray my trust and the company. Then I told him he was terminated effective immediately.
After the employee was gone, I could hear whispers around the office. Everyone knew what had happened. As someone that always believes in maintaining a professional demeanor, I hadn’t shared my plans to terminate this employee or any details afterward. When asked about it I decided to call a quick meeting. I explained to the rest of the team that the relationship needed to come to an end. I then allowed my staff to share their thoughts. After they spoke, I confirmed without confirming that the employee had been terminated due to his dishonest actions and that while terminating an employee is never easy, it’s necessary when they intentionally hurt the company. This let everyone know what had occurred without going into a lot of detail, and also had the added benefit of working as a teaching tool since it showed everyone else that actions have consequences. How did things play out after I terminated this employee? First, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that while this employee was popular, he wasn’t as popular as I thought he was, so the impact on employee morale was less than I expected. I was also happy to discover that once it became known that this employee was defrauding the company, the other employees were very supportive of this employee being terminated. Was it easy to terminate this person that I had invested time, effort, and trust into? No, but looking back I can see that it was the right decision.
A word to the wise
As a business owner terminating an employee can be one of the most challenging and difficult things that you’ll have to do. This is especially true when you are close to this employee and they have worked for you for a long time. When this happens it’s important that you don’t blame yourself, and that you don’t falter in your decision. It’s not your fault that this person decided to defraud the company. It’s not your fault that you invested a lot of time and effort helping them to grow into their role and that you gave them the opportunity to better themselves professionally. This was their decision and as a business owner, you must do what is right for you, for your other employees, and for the business. Failing to act when you know that an employee has betrayed you and your business by defrauding it can end up with them causing even more damage than they already have. So, don’t hesitate, prepare yourself, and do what you need to do to protect your business. This isn’t something personal between you and this employee. Conduct yourself in a professional manner, give them an opportunity to come clean, and if they don’t then hesitate, tell them what they’ve done, show them proof, and terminate them.
After terminating an employee, even one that has betrayed you, it’s normal to feel a little emotional. What’s important now is that you compartmentalize. You don’t want to be seen by your other employees as looking sympathetic to the person you have just terminated. You need them to see you as a strong, confident, and self-assured leader that did what was right for the company. This will help to ensure their loyalty and can be used as a teaching moment showing them what will happen to them if they follow the same path. By using this experience as a teaching moment, you can help to salvage something from what is otherwise a difficult situation.
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