Letting go of a team member is one of the toughest aspects of management.

Not all NNPs are cut out for the job…or they’re simply not a fit for your unit. It could be for any number of reasons: Poor clinical performance, inappropriate bedside manner, lack of accountability, negative interaction with team members, or poor critical thinking skills.

But how do you know when it’s time to let go?

Before doing anything drastic, pause for a moment and take stock, starting with your own management processes. Have you actively guided and mentored your employee’s performance? Have you initiated the proper procedures and action plans to monitor progress? If the answer is yes and it’s still not working out, it’s time to move forward.

Before Having a Conversation

The heavy mantle of management comes with the responsibility to give employees the counseling they need to develop and thrive. Not just for the benefit of your practitioner, but also so that you can complete the groundwork and documentation necessary to justify future actions, such as:

  • Constructive feedback and criticism
  • A performance development plan
  • Probationary and disciplinary actions
  • Pre-termination processes and prevention

Here are steps to ensure the best possible outcome for managing performance:

  1. Set expectations: Make sure each member of your team understands performance expectations; explain the criteria by which you’ll be making evaluations.
  2. Provide consistent feedback: Communicate early and regularly with employees falling short or demonstrating substandard performance. Strive to be honest and objective when providing constructive criticism.
  3. Listen: Ask for and listen to the employee’s input. Allow the NNP to have his or her say, and even to vent a little emotion. Try not to interrupt or talk over the conversation.
  4. Brainstorm solutions: Is there anything you can do to help? What kind of resources or tools could he or she benefit from? Because people learn and adjust differently, asking open-ended questions is a great way solicit ideas that can provide your NNP with the best support.
  5. Document everything: Keep a file of all conversations and written correspondence with your NNP regarding performance issues.
  6. Create a plan: If performance continues to fall short, ask your NNP to help you develop a performance plan for improvement. Make sure this plan includes a completion date and is signed off on by both parties. This is the first step in the progressive disciplinary process.
  7. Give warning: If your employee has not met the objectives and timelines set forth in the developmental plan, it’s time to initiate a verbal or written warning. This warning should be documented and the consequences for continued poor performance should be outlined within.
  8. Terminate: If you’ve applied and exhausted all the options above and performance has still not improved, it’s time to sever the relationship.

If you have questions or need consultation regarding the matter you can always talk this over with your human resources team and, even, your recruitment firm — particularly if they were involved in the original hire.

Termination processes

Terminating an employee is never easy, but by following sound techniques, you can make the process go smoothly and avoid any undue emotional escalation.

1. Preserve the employee’s dignity

This can’t be stressed enough: The termination meeting should be designed to minimize drama and discord. The chance for retaliation or negative receptivity decreases dramatically when care is taken to be respectful of and even delicate in respecting the staff member’s dignity.

2. Set up a proper meeting place

Always meet face-to-face. Conduct the meeting in a quiet and private place where you won’t be interrupted. Hold the meeting in a conference room and, afterward, allow the employee time alone to regain composure.

3. Bring in a witness

You may want a witness present during the termination meeting. If you do, choose a neutral person from your human resources department. This is a particularly good idea if the employee has a tendency to respond with hostility, twist words, or make false accusations.

4. Pick the right time and date

Out of respect for the employee, terminate as early in the employee’s week and in the first hours of the shift. In addition, bring tissues and water. Avoid Fridays and the day before a holiday or vacation.

5. Give an adequate reason for the discharge

You don’t have to spend a lot of time going over every last detail of the employee’s history of conduct; in fact, saying too much can create legal complications. When the time comes, get to the point and make it brief.

6. Make it clear that the decision is final

Explain that the decision has already been made, all alternatives have been considered, and all the other managers and stakeholders are in agreement. This approach can go a long way toward keeping both your cool and control of the situation.

6. Don’t apologize

When you conduct your termination meeting, don’t apologize for your decision. You aren’t doing anything you should be sorry about. If you act apologetic, it can be misperceived and give false hope.

7. Be prepared for staff reactions & questions

The final step of termination should not come as a surprise to the employee. However, it might be a surprise to other staff members. Be prepared to answer questions in a way that preserves the confidentiality of the departed employee and, at the same time, allays fears of further terminations.

If you have taken the above steps the termination should come as no surprise to the employee… and, truth be told, will probably come as a relief. Everyone likes to succeed in what they do and if not succeeding here, letting them go will afford them the opportunity to find a position more suited to their skills.

Do you have any other helpful hints or advice to help Management with terminating a NICU employee? Please leave your comments below!