Running a Nonprofit: How to Fire a Staff Member - dummies

Running a Nonprofit: How to Fire a Staff Member

By Stan Hutton, Frances Phillips

Some people enjoy barking, “You’re fired!” It may not be the best idea for your nonprofit organization. Although you may not lose sleep over letting an employee go, it’s obviously not something to take lightly.

When do you need to consider cutting ties with an employee? Sometimes the employee isn’t producing the quality of work required by the job or isn’t producing work in a timely manner. Other times the employee may be fired for inappropriate behavior, such as not following your organization’s guidelines for appropriate interaction with clients.

If you’re a boss and facing the need to terminate an employee, you should

  • Review the written personnel policies that you provide to all employees. Document in writing the employee’s poor performance or inappropriate behavior and make clear the connection between your complaints and those policies.

    Many people deserve an opportunity to improve. Sit down with the employee and speak candidly and firmly about the level of improvement or change in behavior that you expect. Set written goals for an improved performance and a date for a follow-up consultation.

  • Respect the employee’s privacy. Don’t share your complaints with others except, if necessary, your board chair.

  • Encourage the employee to leave as soon as she’s terminated, watch as she collects her personal items, and walk her to the door. Disgruntled former employees can damage your organization’s records and documents in a few days, hours, or even minutes.

Wrongful discharge lawsuits are common and can be very expensive. If you need to terminate an employee and aren’t sure how to proceed, consult with a human-resources expert or an attorney. The upfront investment may save you much time, expense, and trouble later. If your personnel policies specify the steps for ending employment (and they should), be sure to follow them to the letter.

Sometimes organizations have to let employees go because they no longer have sufficient money to pay the employees’ salaries. If you’re a boss in this situation, try to do the following:

  • Give the employee as much warning as possible about the date of her termination. Don’t keep it quiet while pulling out all the stops to raise money to save her position. Surprising employees with the bad news is inconsiderate.

  • Try to plan ahead and provide some severance pay to help her while she seeks a new job. Although you may want to keep her on the job until the last possible minute, good employees deserve good treatment. If she leaves your agency with good feelings, you’re in a better position to hire her back in the future.

  • Offer to serve as a reference or write letters of recommendation. If the money isn’t coming in, and you can’t find a way to keep the employee on, this gesture is one of the best things you can do.