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Firing an employee can be stressful for all involved—but the issues are compounded when the employee works in IT. Here are some key factors to keep in mind.
IT is a high risk area when employees are terminated.
One reason is that employees who work in IT, and who must be dismissed, have access to vital corporate information. These employees have the potential to shut down systems or leave with information that could do irrevocable harm.
Consequently, corporate policies state—and auditors recommend—that when an IT employee must be terminated, it is best to escort the employee immediately off the premises after they've been told they've been terminated. Meanwhile, IT staff should be directed delete all the employee's accounts and access to systems right away.
Once an involuntary termination is put in motion, the immediacy of the act is unceremonious to say the least. It can have an adverse impact on other employees who witness the sudden and unforeseen escort of a fellow worker off the premises, followed by a system lockdown where the employee is concerned.
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All of these are reasons why managers hate to terminate employees—and why CIOs must be both supportive and engaged with their line managers if it becomes necessary to dismiss an IT staff member.
Before the fact
Before any employee is terminated, CIOs should make sure that their line managers take the necessary steps, such as documenting incidents of employee actions that potentially call for termination, meeting with the employee and trying to correct a situation to avoid a termination if it is possible, and meeting with both the CIO and HR to discuss the situation and to confirm that a termination is absolutely necessary.
During the situation
Termination discussions are never easy, which is why the CIO and an HR manager should be in the meeting with the immediate line manager and with the employee who is being terminated. This gives the line manager a support system as well as witnesses to what is said in the termination conversation should a legal challenge arise afterward.
Once this meeting concludes, the employee should be supervised so they can clean out their desk and be escorted out of the building. Other IT staff (possibly colleagues and even friends of the employee who is being terminated) must be asked to immediately delete the employee's system permissions and access.
For other IT staff members, the suddenness and the unexpectedness of the situation—and this call for their direct involvement in what can appear to them to be a callous and insensitive treatment of a co-worker—can be hard to process and accept. Managers and CIOs need to be sensitive to this.
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When an employee has been dismissed, your first thoughts should be about your staff. They have had to participate in a situation they likely weren't prepared for. This can leave them feeling confused, anxious about their own jobs, and even hostile. Some might be friends of the terminated employee. Even if they didn't have a close relationship with the terminated employee, they might contact them via social media—which may portray the terminated employee in the best light, with a critical view of the company. During this period, the IT line manager and the CIO should circulate among employees, encouraging them in their work and assuring them of their own job security. The technique of "managing by walking around" will help ensure that negative feelings don't spread and upset department morale.
There is nothing pleasant about having to terminate an employee—but CIOs can assist in the process by being supportive and present for their line managers when it is determined that a staff member is likely to be, or must be, fired. It is also critical to reassure staff after such a firing has occurred. Remember that your staff doesn't know all the reasons why the termination occurred, and it's your job to keep the information confidential. This leaves room for rumors to spread, and the best way to stamp out the rumors is by exerting a constant presence with staff and facilitating an environment where they can get back to work without worries.