NFL’s “Black Monday:” Tips on Making Employee Termination Decisions

Posted by Kenneth N. Winkler on

Several NFL head coaches were terminated on “Black Monday” – the day following the end of the regular professional football season. The coaches were Jeff Fisher (Los Angeles Rams), Gus Bradley (Jacksonville Jaguars), Chip Kelly (San Francisco 49ers), Rex Ryan (Buffalo Bills), and Mike McCoy (San Diego Chargers).  None of these employee terminations was a surprise – nor should they have been.  Why?

Terminations based on performance should never be a surprise.  Effective management ensures that employees know what their roles are, what is expected of them, whether they are meeting the employer’s expectations, and what the consequences will be if they fail to meet such expectations.

Like a team entering a new season, employers should face 2017 with optimism and confidence. If an organization’s leaders and employees execute the game plan, involuntary terminations should be minimized.  If, however, there are performance deficiencies, personnel changes may need to be made.  Here are three tips to effectively manage performance:

  1. Conduct performance evaluations.  Be honest.  Do not over inflate an employee’s rating.  Give clear examples of performance problems.  Make it clear what the consequences will be if performance does not improve.  Allow the employee to give feedback.  You may learn that there are tools and things you can do to help the employee succeed.
  2. Don’t drop the ball.  Communicate with employees about their performance throughout the year – not just at a formal evaluation or at the end of the fiscal year.  The evaluation should not be the first time an employee receives a compliment or learns of a serious performance problem.  Follow-up with an employee after a performance evaluation if his/her performance dips or does not improve.  If necessary, you may want to place the employee on a performance improvement plan that clearly outlines goals and expectations.
  3. Document steps taken.  The decision to terminate an employee creates a risk of litigation.  It is important to have documentation supporting the decision such as records of performance problems, counseling sessions, written warnings, and the efforts you have made to improve performance.  After you meet with an employee about performance, have the employee sign an acknowledgment form to confirm that they met with you and understand the performance problem and what is expected of them.[spacer height=”20px”]

Employee terminations are an unpleasant task.  But if management effectively handles performance problems, an employer can make such decisions knowing that it gave the employee a fair chance to succeed and that its decision is appropriate.