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Use these steps to handle a disgruntled employee's termination

How do you handle the termination process with a disgruntled employee? Carefully. Severing your business relationship with a disgruntled employee creates the possibility that he or she will eventually become a legal thorn in your shoe.

Disgruntled employees have been known to hack into company computers, expose trade secrets to competitors, go into direct competition with their old bosses and go out of their way to create damaging publicity for a company. None of that is what you want to see happen -- but you also can't let an unhappy and under-performing employee continue to slide forever.

Here are some steps to take to try to smooth the termination process over:

1. Approach the termination as a positive thing.

If an employee is unhappy and unfulfilled at his or her current position, then termination can be viewed as an opportunity. This may be the push that employee needs to find a job that's more satisfying. You need to keep the focus of your conversation positive and try to gently nudge the employee toward this idea.

2. Make sure that you're legally covered.

Before you have a conversation with your employee, an attorney can help you determine if you've followed proper procedure and are within your legal right to act. It's also a good time to go over the termination notice you intend to send to make sure that it doesn't open you up to any liability.

3. Keep the communication brief.

Communicate the reason for the termination as briefly as possible and don't elaborate. If you've done everything right leading up to this point, termination won't come as a surprise. Don't allow yourself to be drawn into a debate, don't argue and don't ad lib. Stick to your prepared speech and nothing more. Otherwise, something you say could come back to haunt you in a lawsuit later.

4. Always be respectful.

Even if your employee loses his or her cool, keep your demeanor calm and professional. Consider offering your employee exit counseling that can help guide his or her next steps. If you offer a severance package, couple it with a non-disclosure agreement that will protect you later.

You may eventually have to take legal action if your former employee defames the company or injures it in some way. However, the above steps do offer the best chance to avoid those circumstances.

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