Sample Letter of Recommendation for Fired Employee - PDF by wqh16091

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									                                                                                                 15
                                                                                          Termination




    Employee termination is often the        a capable employee), the greater are her
last step in an unsuccessful attempt to      rights to the job.
help a worker meet work standards.               Perhaps a better analogy is that of
Clear management implications include        workplace divorce. Like in divorce, the
the cost associated with the selection       parties involved can choose to be
and training of a new employee; the          combative or cordial. While it is a
effect the termination may have on the       mistake to take any analogy too far,
morale of the discharged employee as         there are other aspects of marriage that
well as those who remain; and the            merit comparison: both parties share
consequences on unemployment                 some responsibility for having chosen
insurance costs.                             each other, and for making the
    Terminating personnel has been           relationship grow and succeed
called the “death penalty of                 afterward.
employment.” Employees readily accept            From a legal perspective, firing an
an employer’s right to choose who to         employee may lead to wrongful
hire (as long as no illegal discrimination   termination charges. In the past, the “at-
takes place). Once hired, however, most      will doctrine” controlled most
workers feel an employer’s right to fire     terminations in the United States. For
should be limited: the longer a person is    instance, the California Labor Code
permitted to stay on the job (even if not    states, “an employment, having no
192 • L A B O R M A N AG E M E N T I N A G R I C U LT U R E : C U LT I VAT I N G P E R S O N N E L P R O D U C T I V I T Y



                                                     specified term, may be terminated at the                      you.” Some have taken the extreme
                                                     will of either party ...”1 Employers had                      position that even the term
                                                     the right to fire an employee at any time                     “probationary period” may imply a
                                                     or for almost any reason. Likewise, the                       hurdle giving employees rights to
                                                     employee could quit “at will.” At-will                        permanence once it is passed. With time,
                                                     termination rights have eroded                                however, even those employers who do
                                                     substantially, however, as a result of                        not have a formal probationary period
                                                     both statutory provisions and court                           eventually come to “own” their
                                                     cases.                                                        employees. The longer an employee
                                                         There are both management and                             works for a farmer, the more the farmer
                                                     legal implications of terminating an                          has implied that this employee has
                                                     employee. Even when taking such                               “passed the test” and is able to do the
                                                     drastic action, a farmer who has                              required work.
                                                     followed the process outlined here and                            Even though personnel policies were
                                                     in Chapter 14 can sleep better at night.                      “not expressly bargained for by the
                                                     Such a farmer knows the worker was                            employees at the time they took their
                                                     fully aware of the unwanted behavior                          jobs,” courts have reasoned “they are
                                                     and its consequences—yet still decided                        enforceable because they give the
                                                     to engage in it.                                              employer a benefit. What is the benefit?
                                                                                                                   A stable, loyal work force.”2
                                                     Erosion of the “at-will” doctrine                                 Having a probationary period is a
                                                                                                                   fine idea if there is a structure set up to
                                                         Both public policy and litigation
                                                                                                                   carefully appraise the performance of
                                                     have combined to erode the “at-will”
                                                                                                                   the new employee before the period
                                                     doctrine. The law prohibits the
                                                                                                                   expires. An employer ought not feel
                                                     discipline and termination of employees
                                                                                                                   forced to make a pass/fail decision at the
                                                     (just as it does in other aspects of the
                                                                                                                   time. Just as viable is to extend the
                                                     employment relationship) based on
                                                                                                                   probationary period when such a
                                                     protected factors, such as sex, race, age.
                                                                                                                   measure is warranted. Only then is a
                                                     Nor can employers retaliate against
                                                                                                                   probationary period meaningful to the
                                                     workers who have turned them in
                                                                                                                   employee and a positive tool for
                                                     (whistle blowing) for violations of
                                                                                                                   management.
                                                     public policy.
                                                         In states where agricultural labor can
                                                                                                                   “At-will” vs. “just cause” policies
                                                     unionize, both union and non-union
                                                     workers alike are normally protected by                           Most labor attorneys and consultants
                                                     the exercise of their rights to “protected                    are advising growers on how to guard
                                                     concerted activity.” Any time employees                       their “at-will” rights. They suggest farm
                                                     act on behalf of two or more persons to                       employers include “at-will” statements
                                                     request better working conditions or pay,                     in job applications and employee
                                                     they are protected from recrimination.                        handbooks and eliminate any reference
                                                     The farmer is under no obligation to                          to job security.
                                                     comply with the request, however.                                 Typical at-will statements include:
                                                         Promises or statements made to                            “We reserve the right to fire a worker at
                                                     workers when they are hired, in                               any time, with or without cause,” and
                                                     conversations with supervisors, and in                        “We reserve the right to terminate an
                                                     employee handbooks have also given                            employee at any time and for any
                                                     rise to much litigation. If farmers use the                   reason, just as the employee has the
                                                     term “permanent employee,” instead of                         right to quit at any time and for any
                                                     “regular” or “non-seasonal,” for                              reason.” These right-to-fire affirmations
                                                     instance, they may end up with the                            are intended to make clear to arbitrators
                                                     worker as a permanent fixture.                                and judges that the farmer has not given
                                                         Likewise, a farm manager may also                         away any legal rights to terminate at-
                                                     have to defend the right to fire an                           will.
                                                     employee if he tells him: “as long as                             To successfully defend an “at-will”
                                                     you do a good job we will have work for                       policy, farmers cannot simply hide the
                                                                                                 T E R M I N AT I O N • 193



policy in the fine print of an application   manager reported that “several employ-
or handbook. Nor can they have it both       ees grumbled and complained to the
ways by maintaining a written “at-will”      [owner] about being told that they could
policy while they contradict it verbally     be dismissed for no reason [and that]
or in practice. The courts may construe      one employee went so far as to hand out
the oral promises to be a waiver of the      fliers which are printed from the ACLU
written policies.                            website calling for legislation requiring
    Plastering “we-can-fire-you-when-        for employers to have cause for all
we-want” statements on applications and      dismissals.” Soon thereafter, the owner
handbooks can have a negative effect. In     decided to retract the policy, but much
their zeal to protect farmers from           of the damage had already been done.6
wrongful discharge suits, attorneys may          In contrast, a just-cause approach is
be inadvertently encouraging employers       likely to increase fairness and thus
to violate management principles with        reduce the number of wrongful
serious consequences. Workers may feel       termination suits. Employees do not
subjected to arbitrary treatment and a       have to be distracted by a climate of
lack of job security, the very reasons       uncertainty and fear. A just-cause
often leading workers to unionize            philosophy does not mean workers
despite good wages.3 Furthermore,            cannot be terminated. It does, however,
“union organizers sometimes say that         force the grower to better manage his
employers’ personnel practices are the       human resources by informing
unions’ greatest organizing weapon.”4        employees of sub-standard performance
    I have for years spoken against “at-     and, when appropriate, by giving them a
will” policies. In 1985, I predicted that    chance to improve before being ousted.
these policies would have a negative             A recent trend has been to establish
effect on employee morale, and that the      binding arbitration to work out cases of
almost hidden one-liner would just           worker termination. The remedies
                                                                                           Once the decision to
simply not be enough.5 My fears have         imposed by an arbiter are binding on
not been without foundation. Beginning       both parties. Advantages of arbitration       terminate has been made, it
in the late 1990s many attorneys began       over judge and jury rulings include (1)       is best to proceed fairly
to suggest that the one line become a        faster decisions;7 and (2) costs may be
                                                                                           quickly rather than putting it
paragraph. More recently, one manager        limited to back pay and reinstatement,
explained that her lawyer had tacked on      while avoiding punitive damages.8             off until after the busy
a lengthy notice (over a page) to the at-    Another very popular movement, one            season when it will be more
will policy, and required employees to       with a great possibility of success, is the
                                                                                           convenient.
acknowledge these changes. The               increase in the use of alternate dispute




                                                                                                                              Jesús Valencia
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                                                                                                                       been very effective, rather than those
                                                                                                                       who used to be excellent but have
                                                                                                                       slowed down for reasons other than age
                                                                                                                       or sickness. The farm employer, in the
                                                                                                                       latter case, would do well to find such
                                                                                                                       workers jobs around the farm that they
                                                                                                                       can still do.)

                                                                                                                       FIRING WITH DIGNITY
                                                                                                                           The first time he fired someone, one
                                                                                                                       manager9 explained, it took him two
                                                                                                                       hours and the process was
                                                                                                                       excruciatingly painful for both himself
                                                                                                                       and the affected employee. Over time,
                                                                                                                       he got “so good” at dismissing
                                                                                                                       employees that “somewhere between the
                                                                                                                       time they entered his office and walked
                                                                                                                       across to take a chair,” they were fired:
                                                                                                                       “We brought you in to discuss some
                                                                                                                       difficult matters. We know you are not
                                                                                                                       happy here, that you are not happy with
                                                                                                                       your performance ... We are not happy
                                                        resolution, where elements and                                 with it either, and feel you can do better
The words firing and dignity                            strategies of mediation are used rather                        elsewhere. So today we are going to part
                                                        than those of arbitration or litigation.                       company and we are going to wish you
hardly belong together.                                                                                                good luck. Here is a severance check
                                                            One dairy farmer confided that half
Nevertheless, there are a few                           an hour after he had hired a milker, it                        and a letter of recommendation we want
principles we can keep in                               was obvious this employee was the                              you to have, along with what we owe
                                                        slowest one he had ever hired. This                            you. We want you to take the rest of the
mind that will help preserve a                                                                                         day off on us, and here are twenty bucks
                                                        worker had sold his home elsewhere and
certain amount of dignity to                            moved to this town. The dairyman felt                          so you can treat yourself to a nice
that employee we are ready                              understandably guilty about letting the                        lunch.”
                                                        employee go. When I heard the case, the                            What goes around comes around,
to let go.                                                                                                             and this same manager reports that when
                                                        worker had already been at his dairy for
                                                        three months. A simple job sample test                         it was his time to be fired he found “the
                                                        would have shown this worker should                            box” on his desk. Everyone knew the
                                                        not have been employed for the position.                       dreaded box was given to soon-to-be
                                                        The dairyman shared the responsibility                         dismissed employees to fill with their
                                                        for having hired such an employee.                             personal belongings. Moments after
                                                            To recap, the longer an employee is                        entering his office and contemplating
                                                        permitted to stay, the greater the                             “the box,” he received a phone call from
                                                        responsibility of the farm operator for                        his supervisor: “See that box on your
                                                        that employee. In cases where farmers                          desk? Get your belongings, report to
                                                        hire employees without testing them,                           payroll ... We’ll give you a ride home.”
                                                        and these workers turn out to be                                   The words firing and dignity hardly
                                                        incapable of doing the job, it is good                         belong together. Nevertheless, there are
                                                        practice to provide such employees                             a few principles we can keep in mind
                                                        severance pay. This may range from a                           that will help preserve a certain amount
                                                        token amount for seasonal workers who                          of dignity to that employee we are ready
                                                        have worked for less than a couple of                          to let go.
                                                        days, to a more substantial amount for                             Persons who suffer job loss may go
                                                        year-round employees who have been                             through predictable emotional stages
                                                        with the farm for a long time. (We are                         that may include lowered self-esteem,
                                                        talking about employees who have never                         despair, shame, anger, and feelings of
                                                                                                                       rejection. The greater the positive
                                                                                                T E R M I N AT I O N • 195



feelings the employee held towards the         can land a farmer in court. So can giving
supervisor, farm enterprise or job and         negative references. Workers who lose
the longer the period of employment, the       their jobs and cannot find other
more poignant these feelings may be.           employment are the ones most likely to
    Before discussing the details of the       file charges. Because of this, a farmer
termination interview, we need to              may prefer not to disclose the reasons
assume that the decision has already           for the termination to others—for
been made with much care; that it will         maximum benefit, workers need to be
not be a surprise to the worker (it is vital   notified of this policy.10 The terminated
that the employee has previously               worker can likewise be asked not to
received an explicit written notice that       discuss the issue with others in the
his termination is being considered); that     community or workplace, but reassured
appropriate and well documented                that it is his decision to make.
disciplinary, counseling and coaching              After the termination, management
measures have already taken place; and         must encourage personnel who have
that you are working with the help of a        questions to speak directly with the
qualified labor attorney (there are legal      employee. It is sometimes hard to resist
questions to be answered at every step)        the temptation of broadcasting
and labor management specialist.               management’s side of the story.
    If it has become clear that the            Employees who remain with the firm
employee ought to be terminated, how           will reason that the confidentiality and
and when does one best face the                dignity afforded to a co-worker is but a
employee to deliver the bad news? A            reflection of how they themselves may
few decisions need to be made before           be treated in the future. The principle
actually meeting with the employee.            that “your good name is safe in my lips”
This is one of those situations where          needs to be followed.
there is no substitute for total                   One employee who could not find a
preparation.                                   new job hired a detective to determine
                                               why he had been terminated. In the
Pre-meeting decisions and                      interview the former boss did not spare
preparation                                    his negative feelings toward the
                                                                                           The decision to terminate an
    Talking about termination after it         employee. Equipped with the tape-
                                               recorded conversation, the ex-employee      employee should be made
happens. A major concern of people
who are terminated is the fear of what         took the employer to court, and the jury    with much care.
will be said about them behind their           awarded him $1.9 million.31
backs. It is a good policy to reassure
workers that except for the management
team involved in the termination, or
others on a need-to-know basis, that the
issue will not be discussed with
employees. Once the decision is made to
terminate an employee, those who
supervise her need to be informed on a
need-to-know basis. All individuals have
to understand the importance of not
talking about the situation with others,
as well as coming across in a consistent
manner (i.e., not giving mixed
messages). Individual supervisors need
to fight the temptation of saying things
to the to-be-terminated employee that
will only be understood later, in the
context of the dismissal.
    Telling prospective employers the
reason for an employee’s termination
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                                                      Recommendations. While there is a                         was a layoff rather than a termination,
                                                 temptation to provide letters of                               why the employer hired someone else
                                                 recommendation to terminated                                   after dismissing an employee for lack of
                                                 employees, these could be used against                         work. In contrast, employers who use
                                                 the employer at a later date if they                           the “kitchen sink approach” and mention
                                                 contradict the reasons for termination.                        every instance of misconduct may not
                                                 Farmers are particularly vulnerable                            fare any better. At some point they may
                                                 when they discharge an employee after                          have to prove each accusation.13
                                                 making positive comments to the worker                             Resignation or termination. Some
                                                 during performance appraisals or by                            enterprises under specific conditions
                                                 letters of recommendation at the time of                       permit employees to resign rather than
                                                 discharge. In the event an employer ends                       be fired. It can make it difficult for
                                                 up in court, he may be asked, “Well, Mr.                       terminated employees to find
                                                 Grower, are you lying to us now or were                        employment when they have to put
                                                 you lying then?”                                               “fired” in job applications under “reason
                                                      A letter explaining reasons for                           for leaving the last job.” When an
                                                 termination and problem areas that led                         employee is given the choice to resign
                                                 to the dismissal may be given to the                           or be terminated, this is considered as a
                                                 employee. The tone and content of this                         case of “constructive discharge” and is
                                                 letter, which may serve as the                                 no different than a termination unless
                                                 employee’s termination notice, needs to                        accompanied by a termination
                                                 be expressed with care, much like the                          agreement (see below). Employers also
                                                 disciplinary notice mentioned earlier. It                      need to make decisions about when they
                                                 is a good idea to mention the worker’s                         will or will not contest former
                                                 positive traits, and wish the worker                           employees’ decisions to apply for
                                                 success. Have several persons proofread                        unemployment insurance. Employees
                                                 the letter. A separate letter that sticks to                   may think that the only reason the
                                                 the facts, such as the employee’s job                          employer is suggesting their resignation
                                                 duties and length of employment, may                           is to save on unemployment insurance.
                                                 be of use to dismissed employees                               Farmers who opt not to contest
                                                 without compromising the farmer. One                           unemployment insurance payments
                                                 area of exception is that of employees                         should make that clear to the terminated
                                                 who have been terminated for issues                            employee. This may be done in writing
                                                 related to violence in the workplace. A                        when using a termination agreement.
                                                 former employer may be liable for not                              Termination agreement. An excellent
                                                 discussing such issues if the employee is                      tool to avoid wrongful termination
                                                 hired elsewhere partly based on a                              charges is the termination agreement
                                                 reference, and later commits an act of                         with a severance package. Employers
                                                 workplace violence.                                            pay workers separation pay (e.g., 3 to 12
                                                      It is easy to see why in seasonal                         month’s wages, depending on length of
                                                 agriculture a farmer may prefer to                             employment and reasons for the
                                                 protect a worker’s feelings and tell him                       termination) in exchange for the
                                                 he is being laid-off for lack of work.                         worker’s agreement to resign and not
                                                 This is especially true toward the end of                      sue. These arrangements may require
                                                 the season. Employers who keep the true                        very specific rules to be followed, and in
                                                 reason for the discharge from employees                        some circumstances may not be
                                                 may face serious problems, however.                            considered valid, so you will want to
                                                 Some have suggested that workers may                           consult your attorney. Termination
                                                 sue for wrongful discharge, in part, to                        agreements can be an excellent device,
                                                 have a chance to find out why they were                        especially for those cases related to
                                                 terminated, and in part to get a chance to                     general worker performance and
                                                 tell the employer their side of the                            productivity. If the employer did not
                                                 story.12 Employers who used layoffs as                         conduct a systematic selection process
                                                 an excuse may be forced to explain why                         when hiring this individual (including
                                                 they did not rehire the next season; or in                     the use of validated job sample tests),
                                                 flagrant cases where a person was told it                      then the employer shares, as we said, the
                                                                                             T E R M I N AT I O N • 197



responsibility for the poor performance.    wounded, rather than get involved in a
The same can be true if an employee has     protracted disciplinary process.
been permitted to perform at a lower            Separation bonus. Employers expect
than acceptable level for some time         workers who quit to give two-weeks         A potential tool to avoid
without documented efforts to help the      notice or more. The same courtesy is
                                                                                       wrongful termination charges
individual improve. Termination             owed to the worker, except that it is
agreements are most likely to succeed       better to simply pay that time as a        are termination agreements
when the employee is aware that the         separation bonus and give the employee     with a severance package.
organization is not pleased with her past   the time to look for another job. It is
                                                                                       Employers pay workers
performance, and the realization does       best to “relieve the employee of any
not come as a surprise. Employees may       further responsibility but to              separation pay in exchange
welcome the opportunity to resign now       themselves.”14 When explaining this        for the worker's agreement to
with a few months of extra pay and their    policy to the employee, the stress needs
                                                                                       resign and not sue.
self-esteem bruised but not as deeply       to be placed on helping the employee




                                                                                                                          Jack Kelly Clark
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                                                                                                                                                             Jack Kelly Clark
                                                       concentrate on his future needs rather                         own office has some advantages in terms
Thanking employees for the                             than on shuffling the person out of sight.                     of getting the employee to open up,
good they have done is in                                  When giving the employee a                                 public places like restaurants should be
good taste always, as well as
                                                       separation bonus (or a more formal                             avoided. Some employees will not be
                                                       severance package mentioned above), it                         able to hold back their tears or emotions
bringing up the employee’s                             should be given after all appropriate                          and this puts them in a very awkward
positive contributions and                             papers are signed and all ranch property                       position.
qualities. A supervisor has to
                                                       such as pickups, keys, two-way radios,                             Timing. Although timing is not
                                                       computers, bank cards, and any                                 always within the prerogative of
find the right moment to                               pertinent passwords are returned.                              management, conventional wisdom
make these positive                                    Having a detailed checklist ahead of                           suggests that employees should be fired
comments, however. This
                                                       time of what these items are is                                early in the week and early in the day,
                                                       important.15 The check, however, should                        and that the worst time to terminate an
should not be done when it                             be ready as the employee may be able to                        employee is the day before a weekend
could appear that the                                  fulfill these requirements without delay.                      or holiday. When these principles are
employee is being appeased.
                                                       In some cases there may be mandated                            violated, the worker can only sit and
                                                       delays to the separation pay related to                        stew and often cannot do anything
                                                       the termination agreement.                                     proactive in terms of checking for
                                                           Choice of meeting place. A place of                        possible unemployment benefits or
                                                       privacy where others cannot hear or                            looking for another job.
                                                       observe the conversation works well.                               Termination early in the day has the
                                                       There should be absolutely no telephone                        additional advantage that all the parties
                                                       or other interruptions. Although                               involved are fresher and less stressed,
                                                       choosing a more neutral place than your                        and thus can better deal with the
                                                                                           T E R M I N AT I O N • 199



emotional issues and challenging              task to someone other than the direct
interpersonal communication.16 In an          supervisor. The ideal, however, is for the
informal survey, I found most workers         direct supervisor to speak with the
prefer to be let go at a time they can        employee. Having a second member of
collect personal belongings from their        management present can serve several
worksite in private, without having to        important purposes: (1) there is an
face co-workers. Being able to dismiss        implication of unity in the decision, (2)
employees earlier in the day, and             the second person can act as a witness,
privately, is generally easier to do with     (3) in some cases a second person may
field rather than office personnel. With      possess interpersonal skills that may
office personnel, the only practical          help in the situation, and (4) having two
approach is often to wait until near          persons may reduce the likelihood of a
closing time. If this is not possible,        violent outbreak.
rather than forcing employees to face             After the main termination meeting,
their colleagues, you may give them the       paperwork issues can be delegated if
option of having their personal               there are questions that can be best
belongings mailed to them. If the             answered by someone else. Management
employee chooses such an option, two          may wish to offer counseling or
people should be present when personal        placement services to some employees,
belongings are collected17 to avoid           depending on the situation and length of
charges of dishonesty.                        employment with the firm.
     At the time of dismissal, depending          Pay and Papers. Pay, including any
on the situation, employees who want to       benefits and unused vacation, needs to
say good-bye to co-workers can be             be delivered on the spot. This is good
encouraged, within reason, to call or         business practice and frequently is the
even arrange to visit the worksite at a       law. Likewise, if an employee has
later date. While few employees will          earned part of a bonus, this should also
take advantage of this offer, this policy     be paid. It is better to err on the
can help alleviate feelings of rejection      generous side. If papers need to be
and loss to terminated personnel. Of          signed related to any continuing benefits
course, there are circumstances where         or other like matters, they should be
former workers would not be welcome           available right away. Any unfinished
(e.g., those terminated for sexual            paperwork can be taken care of by mail
harassment, workplace threats, theft),        rather than inconveniencing the
but for most employees there is no need       employee by requiring her presence at
to create further artificial barriers by      the job site. In the case of an
labeling them as persona non grata.           investigative suspension that results in
     Once the decision to terminate has       termination, the employee also needs to
been made, it is best to proceed fairly       be paid for “reporting time”18 when she
quickly. Some employers try to justify        comes back to work for the final
putting the termination off until after the   termination meeting.
busy season when it will be more                  Escorting the employee. When it is
convenient. Yet, the longer the employee      time for the employee to turn in ranch
is allowed to stay on the job, the greater    property, some employers escort the
the implication that performance              worker to his workplace. When sensitive
challenges have been overcome. Further,       matters are involved, or the possibility
the poor performer is likely to be            of sabotage exists, such a policy not
distracted and be involved in a costly        only protects the enterprise but also the
mistake or serious workplace injury.          employee. It is human nature to blame
Significant legal issues may surface          others, especially the terminated
when a worker is fired shortly after          employee, of having caused anything
filing a workers’ compensation claim.         that goes wrong around the period of his
     Who should terminate the employee?       termination. Of course, this needs to be
Terminating an employee is stressful          explained to the employee. In cases
and takes effective interpersonal skills.     where termination decisions are being
There is a temptation to delegate this        considered during an investigative
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                                                       suspension, employees may also be                                                      THE TERMINATION MEETING
                                                       requested to turn in sensitive company
                                                       property. It can always be returned later                                                   The meeting tone established by
                                                       if the decision is made not to terminate.                                              management should be one of cordiality
                                                            Is the decision to fire final? Be                                                 and empathy. In some cases, the best
                                                       prepared for some employees who may                                                    way to start the meeting is to say
                                                       try to convince you that they can do                                                   something like, “You will probably not
                                                       their jobs—that you need to give them                                                  be surprised to find out that things are
                                                       another chance. A decision to terminate                                                just not working out.”
                                                       an employee is not a light one. It is                                                       The bad news can be given next. If
                                                       important to make the decision with care                                               there is any chance that the employee
                                                       and then stand by it.                                                                  does not understand why he is being
                                                            Role-play. It is difficult to know                                                terminated, the reasons should be
                                                       what to say and how to react in a                                                      explained now. Speaking to an employee
                                                       termination interview. The supervisor                                                  about the reason for termination needs
                                                       may wish to role-play and get coaching                                                 to be done calmly and with empathy,
                                                       and feedback on the process. Notes may                                                 without gloating. This is not a time to go
                                                       be prepared in terms of bullets and key                                                into great detail, nor should there be
                                                       thoughts, rather than something to be                                                  blaming, guilt trips, recounting
                                                       read verbatim to the employee.                                                         everything the worker ever did wrong,
                                                                                                                                              or to overly dwell on the reasons for
A just-cause approach (in                                                                                                                     termination. Here, less is better than
                                                                                                                                              more. The supervisor who has followed
contrast to at-will) means
                                                                                                                                              a proper disciplinary process will have
employees do not have to be                                                                                                                   little to add at this time—but should
distracted by a climate of                                                                                                                    encourage questions. If there is no one
                                                                                                                                              specific reason why the employee is
uncertainty and fear.
                                                                                                                                              being terminated, but rather a
                                                                                                                                              combination of factors, then a brief
                                                                                                                                              statement to that effect would be
                                                                                                                                              appropriate.
                                                                                                                                                   Two common mistakes at this stage
                                                                                                                                              are when the supervisor (1) is so vague
                                                                                                                                              that the employee does not know he has
                                                                                                                                              been terminated; and (2) talks too much.
                                                                                                                                              Silence can make interpersonal
                                                                                                                                              situations uncomfortable, and in an
                                                                                                                                              effort to fill this silence, the supervisor
                                                                                                                                              is likely to say more than he should.
                                                                                                                                                   No matter how prepared the
                                                                                                                                              employee is for the termination, the
                                                                                                                                              moment will, nevertheless, be
                                                                                                                                              disconcerting. The employee is likely to
                                                                                                                                              be torn with feelings of incredulity,
                                                                                                                                              numbness and various other emotions. A
                                                                                                                                              person is likely to tune everything else
                                                                                                                                              out as numerous thoughts crash against
                                                                                                                                              her mind. How will I tell my family,
                                                                                                                                              friends and acquaintances? How will I
                                                                                                                                              make ends meet? What will be said
                                                                                                                                              behind my back?
                                                                                                               Agrogestión, Fundación Chile




                                                                                                                                                   The focus of the supervisor should
                                                                                                                                              be to encourage the employee to
                                                                                                                                              verbalize any feelings, up to a point. The
                                                                                                                                              supervisor may encourage the employee
                                                                                                                                              to speak by asking questions, such as, “I
                                                                                              T E R M I N AT I O N • 201



am sure you have a lot on your mind.         be done sincerely. When it is time to
Are there any feelings or questions you      indicate the interview is over, the
want to share or discuss with me at this     supervisor can stand and extend her
time?” If the employee does not              hand,19 and escort the employee to
immediately answer, the supervisor           empty his belongings.
should resist the temptation to jump to          Anything that reduces the totality of
another subject. Even a couple of            the separation is likely to be appreciated
seconds will seem like an eternity to the    by the terminated employee. Depending
supervisor, let alone a sufficiently long    on the degree of friendship developed
pause, yet it is important to give the       over time, a follow-up card or note, or a
employee time to formulate an answer.        phone call from time to time may help
    If the employee does speak, the          the former employee through this
supervisor needs to fight the even           difficult transition.
greater temptation to interrupt, defend or
contradict (even when the supervisor
may think the perspective is twisted).
                                             SUMMARY
While stoic silence is not what is               Employee termination is often the
generally called for and could easily be     last step in an unsuccessful attempt to
counter-productive, the supervisor           help a worker meet work standards.
should remember that this is the             There are both legal and management
employee’s chance to do most of the          implications to employee termination.
talking and venting. The employee            Two opposite approaches to
should be listened to in an empathic         terminations are “just cause” and “at
manner and thanked for sharing her           will.” Just cause requires more
perspective.                                 management preparation and control but
    Thanking employees for the good          normally has a greater potential to
they have done is always in good taste,      reduce cases of arbitrary treatment,
as well as bringing up the employee’s        eliminating some wrongful discharge
positive contributions and qualities. The    cases before they happen.
sincerity, or lack of sincerity, of these        Where the employer shares some of
comments will be easily felt by the          the fault for the employee’s poor
terminated employee. A supervisor has        performance, a termination agreement
to find the right moment to make these       can be a very powerful tool. Such an
positive comments, however. This             agreement may meet some of the needs
should not be done when it could appear      of the employer and the terminated
that the employee is being appeased, or
                                             employee.
while the employee is crying.
Furthermore, if these things are brought
up too early in the meeting, there is a      CHAPTER 15 REFERENCES
danger that either the employee may
misunderstand the nature of the              1. California Labor Code (Article 4, Section
meeting—and somehow think he is                   2922).
being called into the office to be           2. Herman, J. (1981, March 12-13).
                                                  Company Policies And Procedures (p.
commended—or think that you may be
                                                  25). In Proceedings of the 1st Annual
talked into giving him another chance.            Agricultural Personnel Management
One supervisor reported, for instance,            Forum. Ventura, California.
that the right moment for the positive       3. Sagaser, H. A. (1982, March 11).
comments came as he walked the                    Presentation to the Agricultural
employee to his pickup. Perhaps a good            Leadership Group. Fresno, California.
way to start is, “Before you leave, I did    4. Milkovich, G. T., and Boudreau, J. W.
want to thank you for ... and compliment          (1994). Human Resource Management
you for ....”                                     (7th ed.) (p. 662). Burr Ridge, Illinois:
                                                  Irwin.
    Some words to the effect that the
                                             5. Billikopf, G. E. (1985, March 16). At-will
terminated employee is likely to be               doctrine may erode workers’ morale (p.
successful elsewhere, despite the lack of         32-H). California Farmer. This article
match here, should be offered if it can           was also published by several other farm
202 • L A B O R M A N AG E M E N T I N A G R I C U LT U R E : C U LT I VAT I N G P E R S O N N E L P R O D U C T I V I T Y



                                                      journals, including Sun-Diamond                           14. Davis, A. (1999, August 23). Personal
                                                      Grower (1985, February/March) (p. 12),                         communication. HRnet forum.
                                                      Western Grower and Shipper (1985,                         15. “Parting Ways: Effective Termination
                                                      April) (p. 20), and Stanislaus Farm                            Techniques” Preparing for a Termination
                                                      News (1985, April 5) (pp. 7, 12).                              section. Online Women’s Business
                                                 6. E-mail communication with a manager,                             Center at http://www.onlinewbc.org/.
                                                      who is a member of the HRnet forum                             Linked from Carter McNamara Free
                                                      (2000, May). Quoted with permission.                           Management Library
                                                 7. Jory, J. (1994, March 17). Law offices of                        http://www.mapnp.org/library/
                                                      Jory, Peterson, and Sagaser, Fresno,                      16. “Setting up the termination meeting”
                                                      California. Using Mediation and                                CCH Inc. Go Business, Business
                                                      Arbitration as an Alternative to                               Owner’s Toolkit at http://www.go.com/.
                                                      Disputes, University of California                             Linked from Carter McNamara Free
                                                      Agricultural Extension seminar. Merced,                        Management Library at
                                                      California.                                                    http://www.mapnp.org/library/.
                                                 8. Sagaser, H. A. (1989, November 21).                         17. Managing people: How to fire an
                                                      Telephone communication. Law offices                           employee. BusinessTown.com at
                                                      of Jory, Peterson, and Sagaser, Fresno,                        http://www.businesstown.com/people/fir
                                                      California, and Mesnier, J. E. (1989,                          ing-howto.asp Linked from Carter
                                                      November 21). Telephone                                        McNamara Free Management Library at
                                                      communication. Law offices of Cronic,                          http://www.mapnp.org/library/
                                                      Moskovitz, Tidemann, and Girard,                          18. Billikopf, G. E. (1993, August). Suspend
                                                      Sacramento, California.                                        Before You Fire (pp. 24-25). The
                                                 9. Scott, R. T. (1999, August). Personal                            Dairyman. For instance, California
                                                      communication. Business Consultant.                            Labor Code requires employees to be
                                                 10. Schlei, B. L., and Grossman, P. (1983).                         paid when terminated (Cal. Labor Code,
                                                      Employment Discrimination Law (p.                              Sec. 201). This final pay check should
                                                      607). Washington, D. C.: Bureau of                             be for all wages owed, including
                                                      National Affairs Inc.                                          reporting-time pay and pro-rated
                                                 11. Stricharchuk, G. (1986, October 2). Fired                       vacation pay.
                                                      Employees Turn the Reason for                             19. “Termination Checklist”
                                                      Dismissal Into a Legal Weapon. Wall                            FindLaw.SmallBusiness at
                                                      Street Journal.                                                http://smallbiz.findlaw.com/tools/trmntp
                                                 12. “What to do at a termination meeting”                           _m.stm. Linked from Carter McNamara
                                                      CCH Inc. Go Business, Business                                 Free Management Library at
                                                      Owner’s Toolkit at http://www.go.com/.                         http://www.mapnp.org/library/.
                                                      Linked from Carter McNamara Free
                                                      Management Library at
                                                      http://www.mapnp.org/library/.
                                                 13. Schlei, B. L., and Grossman, P. (1983).
                                                      Employment Discrimination Law (p.
                                                      607). Washington, D. C.: Bureau of
                                                      National Affairs Inc.

								
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