If you’re reading this, you’re likely in a difficult situation already—you’re trying to figure out how to fire one of your employees. This isn’t an easy task. You’re likely reviewing their performance, thinking about your own decisions, and trying to figure out what went wrong. Once you’re sure this is the course you want to take, here are a few tips to make terminating an employee as easy as possible.
Have reviews and check-ins, documented
This is your first step to ensuring the smoothest transition possible. You need to be regularly meeting with team members and offering them feedback. If you have a team member who is struggling, you need to meet them where they’re at and start to help. By putting them on a performance plan, you can perhaps prevent the firing in the first place.
You need to ensure you’re properly documenting these meetings. This will be key if employee in the future attempts to pursue a wrongful termination lawsuit. This way, you can prove that efforts were taken to make the situation work.
Be clear and concise
Emotions are running high when you must terminate an employee, and it can be hard to say everything you need to. Make sure you have another witness (preferably your head of HR), and have an outline of procedures you need to follow in the interaction.
Be kind, but firm. You can’t let the employee try bargain or promises, and they can’t have any hope that you’ll reconsider.
This might feel harsh, but it’ll be better for everyone in the long run.
Treat them respectfully
No matter how much you might personally dislike an employee, they deserve nothing less than your respect during the termination.
“Always treat an employee with compassion and respect before, during and after the termination meeting. Remember that even in a ‘for-cause’ termination—everyone has made mistakes; some are just more costly than others,” says Gwen Mattes, the Director of Human Resources for Nexa. “Making a decision to terminate someone’s employment should never be easy—the person is someone’s child/parent/sibling/spouse—and you should always treat them with the same respect that you want someone you care about to be treated.”
Besides the fact that it’s just the right thing to do, you’re also protecting yourself and the company here. Again, you don’t want that lawsuit after the fact.
Try to have them come in early or have the conversation after work so they have a chance to leave peacefully. There’s a good chance tears will be shed, so privacy will be appreciated.
If that’s not possible, make sure you’re at least behind a closed door. Firing someone in front of their peers is a recipe for disaster—it will destroy morale, escalate the situation unnecessarily, and damage the trust your team has in you.
Retrieve company property
This is the most technical part of the termination. You’ll need to get any company property back, immediately. This means any keys, keycards, laptops, work phones, identification, or other needed company materials. If the employee doesn’t have all the needed equipment on them, arrange a time for it to be dropped off with HR.
After the employee leaves, make sure they don’t have access to company materials and information online. Change all shared passwords and redirect their email to yours so you can set a reply message and handle any necessary loose ends.
Handle termination like a pro
Firing an employee is never easy, but it’s something every manager will have to handle eventually. After all, you’re responsible for the profits, management, and overall wellbeing of your team. If you feel like the fire could have been prevented, it’s a good time to review your company culture and see if any changes would be beneficial for your team in the long run.
Something important to remember: be kind to yourself in this process! Like Gwen said, firing an employee is extremely difficult. If you follow these steps, you’ll have done everything you could to make the position work, and that’s worth some credit. Shrug it off, do something to boost office morale, and then go find a new team member. Your business will be better off in the long run.