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You're Fired!

Firing people sucks. I've had to fire several people over the years and it never gets any easier. The high human cost to the fired employee, other employees, and everyone involved in the firing decision requires no further elaboration. As awful as it is, though, this human cost is only the tip of a very large iceberg. Should someone you fire decide to challenge your decision, the results could devastate your business.

Does your business have detailed job descriptions for each employee that include what to do, how to do it, and all relevant quality standards? Do you have clearly articulated procedures for dealing with employee performance and/or behavioral problems that includes such topics as insubordination, sexual harassment, and drug/alcohol abuse?

If your business has employees and you just answered "no" to either question, then you may be setting yourself up for a legal and financial nightmare to the tune of anywhere between $300,000 and $1.8 million, not including legal fees and other associated costs. Welcome to the world of wrongful termination lawsuits, where the smaller figure is the average out-of-court settlement, the higher the average jury award. Even worse, plaintiffs in employment cases win over 70% of the time.

Do you provide formal reviews and ongoing feedback? Do you document disciplinary actions as part of each employee's file? If not, how can you prove that you followed your own procedures and provided adequate warnings, opportunities to correct behavior, and lesser disciplinary actions prior resorting to firing the employee? The employee handbook provides the standards against which employee performance is judged; the reviews and thorough documentation provide the evidence that you are upholding those standards.

Put another way, if you don't have a comprehensive employee handbook and the documentation to prove that you're following said handbook, then you are flirting with disaster. You may have been in business for many years and fired your fair share of people with never a problem. That doesn't make you exempt, just lucky- for now.

Say you do have an employee handbook and are diligent about documenting the good, the bad, and the ugly. Being able to prove that you have procedures that were followed is a great thing, except that it says nothing about the validity of the procedures themselves. In other words, are you absolutely positive that your employee management procedures comply with all applicable laws and regulations? Government agencies can and do levy civil and/or criminal penalties for labor law violations.

And all you wanted was some extra hands to help you run your thriving business"&

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There are two types of managers in the world: Those who have fired people and those who will fire somebody someday. You've worked way too hard and invested way too much of yourself and your resources in growing your business to lose it all because someone decides to take advantage of the fact that they weren't a good fit for your company.

That's the bad news. The good news is that there is something you can do about it. Even better, the solution is both cost-effective and can shave up to 18 hours per week off your schedule. I urge you to check into hiring a Professional Employer Organization, or PEO. I just started learning about the PEO option a few weeks ago and am very excited about the tremendous benefits they offer to small businesses and their employees. Your employees get world-class benefits while you get both freedom from the hassle of dealing with human resource issues and protection in the event things go very, very wrong.

I encourage you to contact my friend Erin Malmquist, business consultant for Administaff, to see if the PEO option is right for your company. You may call her at (650) 357-5921 or email her at erin_malmquist@administaff.com.

I do not work for Administaff, nor is my endorsement solicited or paid for by them in any way.

Learn how ancient survival instincts guide everything you do and how to use those instincts to your advantage. My new book "The Enlightened Savage: Using Primal Instincts for Personal and Business Success" is available from or your favorite bookseller.

My new book, Guerrilla Marketing Success Secrets, is in the final stages of pre-publication and will be available soon!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anthony Hernandez is a Certified Guerrilla Marketing Association Business Coach with over 20 years of business and marketing experience. He lives in Ashland.