How to Fire a Self Storage Employee with Compassion

Krista Diamond |

Firing an employee who works at your storage facility is hard. Not only is it hard on the person who is being fired, but it’s hard on the person who has to do the firing.

If you’ve recently found yourself in a position where you have no other option but to terminate an employee from your storage facility—whether it’s the result of poor performance, violation of a zero-tolerance policy or an unfortunate downsizing—you probably have a lot of questions. What are the steps? How will the employee react? How will other employees at the storage facility react? And most importantly, how do you balance protecting the interests of your self storage business while treating the terminated employee with dignity?

While firing employees from your storage facility will never be easy, here’s how to do it with compassion.

Make Sure it’s Not Coming Out of Nowhere

Before you make the decision to fire an employee at your storage facility, give them several opportunities to do better. An employee should be made aware of their performance through reviews, clear goals and additional training, all of which should be documented.  Obviously, if the employee has done something drastic that requires immediate termination, like assaulting one of your self storage tenants, you can ignore this caveat, but if no zero-tolerance offense has been committed, you have to give them a chance to improve.

Be Professional, Not Emotional

As a self storage operator, you might view the team at your facility as a sort of work family. Set these personal feelings aside when firing an employee. Refer to the contract that the employee signed when he or she was hired rather than emotions. It doesn’t matter whether you like or dislike the person you’re firing; you have to be professional. Remind yourself that this about workplace policy at your storage facility, not personal feelings.

Plan Out the Steps

You’re human. It’s natural to feel nervous about firing someone. Drawing out the process will be painful for both you and the employee, so make it as smooth as possible by planning out the steps involved. Plan on saying something short and professional and then explaining the next steps. Know what you will say to the employee regarding their last paycheck, company property, benefits and any other logistical matters. If you can have their final paycheck and any necessary paperwork available right away, do so.

Meet Somewhere Private

Avoid causing the employee embarrassment by meeting somewhere that’s away from the rest of your staff and any self storage tenants that might be around. If your other employees can hear the meeting, they’ll feel uncomfortable. If your customers hear it, they’ll view you as unprofessional and won’t want to rent a storage unit from you. If you have to fire an employee from your storage facility, do it behind closed doors.

Let Them Vent

It’s impossible to predict how an employee will react to being fired. They may cry, they may get angry or they may say nothing at all. Recognize that it’s an emotional situation and allow the employee to vent. Don’t insert your opinion or indicate that the decision is up for debate. Assuming that the meeting doesn’t take on a threatening tone (and it probably won’t), let the employee vent for as long as they like.

Don’t Answer Questions You Shouldn’t

Don’t say anything that could put you in trouble legally. If you don’t know the answer to a question, either promise to find it or refer the employee to someone on staff who has that information. This isn’t just to protect you and your storage facility; it’s a courtesy to the employee. Getting them the correct information will help them transition more easily into the next stage of their professional life. You may encourage them to contact you with follow-up questions regarding their final paycheck and benefits, but don’t promise to help them find a new job or write a reference for them unless this is a case of downsizing.

Resist Discussing it With Other Employees

Gossip may be a part of every workplace, but participating in it as an authority figure isn’t ethical. Only give the other employees at your storage facility the information that they need. You can and should be transparent to a certain extent. Let them know that an employee was terminated, but don’t get into the details. You should also let them know if it will affect them in any way (i.e. more work until the employee is replaced).

Re-Evaluate Your Hiring Practices

This is an opportunity for your storage facility to evolve. Take a moment to re-evaluate your hiring practices. This might mean writing a better, more accurate job description, taking a second look at the skills your prioritize when recruiting and learning to communicate better as a self storage manager. You might also want to re-evaluate your training methods. After all, the staff at your storage facility won’t flourish if you don’t give them the tools they need to succeed. Firing a member of your self storage team can be emotionally taxing, but if you use it as an opportunity to improve, your storage facility will benefit in the long run.