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Susan M. Heathfield

Is It My Job to Fire Employees?

By April 23, 2014

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Nothing is as confusing to many readers than the parameters and responsibilities of the role of HR staff. I receive frequent questions that tell me that the HR person's organization thinks that she or he should fire employees, discipline employees, write employees up, and hire employees.

Nothing is farther from the reality of how these employment actions should occur. These roles are not in the HR job description.

These responsibilities are in the job descriptions of managers and supervisors for many reasons. The most important reason is that the HR person wasn't there - for any of it. She or he has only hearsay evidence about what occurred from the manager or supervisor.

So, too, with hiring employees. The new employee will not report to the HR staff person who has only second hand knowledge about the job's requirements and the supervisor's needs. The key interaction during interviews is the interaction of the candidate with the hiring manager and his or potential coworkers.

The Role of HR Staff

The HR professional's role is to provide support to the manager or supervisor as she or he performs these tasks that are integral in their jobs supervising and leading employees. The HR staff person specifically should provide these kinds of support.

  • Training for managers and supervisors in all aspects of employment including interviewing, selection, discipline, and how to legally and ethically fire an employee,
  • Guidance, written policies, and procedures to give direction and consistency in employment actions,
  • Counsel and coaching to assist managers to do their jobs effectively,
  • Presence to witness the employment action and to help steer a meeting that heads awry,
  • Documentation assistance so the records are accurate, legal, and will withstand scrutiny in a court of law,
  • Feedback during employee selection about potential cultural fit and effectiveness of the candidate, and
  • Background checking to ensure that you are hiring the employee who you think you are hiring.

The list goes on and on, and I have written extensively about the role of HR staff in an organization. I am interested to know what you think. Am I crazy or is this the way it's supposed to work?

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More About the HR Role

Comments
January 14, 2011 at 9:33 am
(1) Mary says:

Managers only undermine their own authority when they hand off the responsibility of disciplining their employees to HR. HR should assist the managers to feel more comfortable and more professional in the process of firing an ee. Often, I find that supervisors or managers that want HR to do the discipline and terminations are young, new to the position or not properly trained….they often are the ones who have come up from the ranks and are struggling with the change in their relationship with employees who used to be their peers. Part of “growing up” as a supervisor is accepting that your decisions are the best thing for the company, and usually the best thing for the employee…that is, if the supervisor has been communicating regularly and effectively throughout the employee’s tenure with the company.

January 10, 2012 at 8:20 am
(2) ernie says:

I really enjoy your emails & interesting articles.
Best for 2012

January 10, 2012 at 10:24 am
(3) Therese says:

I will have to somewhat agree with you, Mary. There are certainly several instances I can think of where a young manager has wanted to hand off these duties to me, either because they are not comfortable doing it, or because they don’t want to seem ‘mean’ to their staff. However, I can think of more instances of an older manager, in his 50′s and with my company for over a decade who attempts to do this in an effort to make HR look like the enemy and make himself look like the one who is being picked on, who must comply with what ‘big bad HR’ tells him to do. Young or old, managers love to pass the buck to HR.

January 10, 2012 at 12:30 pm
(4) george says:

My company is a joke. The management team is not allowed to hire, fire, suspend, or send home an employee for any reason – ever. Only HR is allowed to do that after an investigation. If HR cannot find anything to support what the manager or supervisor said, then it never happened. If it was up to me half the people would be fired.

May 12, 2012 at 12:27 am
(5) Ibrahima says:

I agree with you 100%. Because if HR doesn’t support the manager/supervisor in disciplinary action, then it will send a signal to the employees the manager/supervisor in question is nothing. In this case the manager/supervisor will lose the loyalty and respect from his/her employees.

October 28, 2012 at 9:18 am
(6) Christopher Mawadri says:

l comply with what George said, your firing process is not as easy at all as hiring. Managers/Supervisors have to give 3 times warning letters to such misbehaving employee and where there is no improvement, the HR personnel then has to come in to investigate the truth of the matter as reported to him. If the whole matter investigated cannot justify/ surpport the statement of the complainants against the victim, then the HR has no right at all to fire this person away from the work. The HR can prune the stubborn employees by disciplining them or after their contract, no renewal will be considered.

October 29, 2012 at 8:12 am
(7) Gadi says:

All of you are correct. Managers most of the time are not well equipped with the necessary tools for leadership and this leaves more to be desired for. I would say then HR has a role to play in training managers that’s if it is a new person to managerial position but if it is an executive who has been with the company for longer, he has to act as a manager and do his/her job.

August 28, 2013 at 4:04 pm
(8) Tony says:

It all depends on the responsibilities detailed in one’s employment agreement as to who is responsible for terminations. It should be clear cut and defined there really shouldn’t be any confusion at all.

August 30, 2013 at 5:38 am
(9) Ausha says:

HR has only the supporting role, the decision has to be made by management and supervisiors, HR needs to investigate and implement those decisions

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