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Firing someone for cause requires much documentation but can save big money Photographer: Ljupco for the iStock collection. Item number: 459873781

Commercial HVAC Sales: "YOU'RE FIRED!"

I always preferred staff management over line management for one really big reason: staff managers never have to fire an employee. The two major categories for involuntary termination are for lack of performance or for “cause.”

Lack of performance termination should be conducted in a manner that provides detailed documentation. Management has failed the employee miserably if they’re surprised by the termination notification.

Salespeople accomplishments are the most obvious and  measureable. I always encourage line managers to monitor calls and quotes rather than just bookings. This identifies problems early. For instance, some sales personnel are great at setting appointments but struggle with getting past the first call in the selling cycle. The best coaches will start riding with the salesperson and critique immediately after each first call. Often it’s a matter of leaving something out of the presentation or not using their selling tools.



While this may seem academic, sales trainees can sit through seminars, ride with veterans, study tapes, and read all the books, but still leave out portions of a presentation because they deem it unnecessary. They need to be reminded that every prospect has the right to see everything we offer. Remind them that even though they’ve seen the material before, they can’t assume the prospect has.

This is the time to implement some short term goals. It could include role playing with other employees in the conference room or completing his/her selling kit (a 3-in.binder filled with every selling tool available). If improvement hasn’t been evident over the next few weeks, then set short term objectives — including calls, quotes, and bookings.

Unlike short term goals, short term objectives are constructed of hard numbers. Five first calls per week; four final presentations; and $100,000 in new bookings by (date, exactly 90 days out). At the moment of implementation, the employee should be aware that management won’t accept anything less than the objectives set forward and, if the employee falls short on the bookings number, termination will follow. Most managers make the serious mistake of bending the numbers and/or time frames. This sends a loud message to all other employees.

Termination for Cause

Termination for cause is totally different. Examples of cause include: stealing from the company, falsifying documents, drinking on the job, or simply failing a drug test.  While there are no short term goals or other directives, an employee committing such an offence should be terminated on the spot, if the proof is there.

I once had a male and female co-worker get romantically involved. Both were key employees and both married with kids. This gets very delicate. Without hard evidence, the line manager is flirting with civil litigation. Nothing short of black and white glossies would be good enough for me.

In this instance, I spoke with the male employee and was assured nothing was going on. However, a number of employees saw the couple in compromising situations. I simply called the male employee into my office and eliminated his job.

Better to pay extra on unemployment compensation than to get involved in a lengthy and costly law suit.

Another incident that called for immediate termination for cause was when I caught the receptionist drinking beer at her desk 15 minutes before closing. We had a large refrigerator in the inner office that stored beer and liquor from cocktail receptions. I immediately terminated her. After a short fight, she was refused unemployment compensation.

When an employee fails a drug test, the issue must be handled according to your policy. When implementing any kind of substance abuse programs, there must be strict, written policies explaining exactly what procedures will be followed. It would seem obvious that an employee will be fired for drinking or doing drugs on the job, however, it’s still a good idea to implement it into the policy and procedures manual.  A little forethought can save lots of hair pulling later.

Most managers don’t realize that you really don’t need a reason for termination. As long as it’s not offending any protective group, it’s sometimes better to not offer a total explanation of the termination. The less said, the less will be challenged.

Earl King, founder, King Productions International
Earl King, founder, King Productions International

If you’ve ever been involved with both types of termination, I’m sure you’ll agree that firing for “cause” is far easier than for lack of performance.

Earl King is the founder of King Productions International, a commercial HVAC
contracting sales consulting firm based in Texas. He speaks to associations and HVAC trade groups, and consults with commercial contractors across the country. E-mail Earl at:
[email protected] or call him at 515/321-2426.

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