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How to Fire the Right Way

By: SmallBizClub



According to a recent Human Capitalist article, over 30 percent of new hires quit within the first six months. However, many unsatisfied employees choose to remain and poorly perform at their job. Terminating an employee can be a stressful experience. However, following the four tips below will reduce problems and ensure legal compliance.


“If it isn’t documented, it doesn’t exist,” is the common HR mantra. Documentation is the most critical part of any employee termination. Proper, consistent documentation of poor performance or problems will provide all the necessary facts and evidence for termination. Being able to clearly show a history of problems will let you avoid discrimination litigation, wrongful termination lawsuits and may even result in their unemployment insurance claim being denied. This is because workers who are terminated for “gross misconduct” are not eligible for unemployment insurance. Therefore, make sure all relevant performance information is properly documented in the employee’s file. As a result, you will be able to calmly and concisely explain the factual reasons for the termination.

Related Article: Fire Employees Wisely, or Pay the Price

Focus on the Facts

All employee terminations should occur during an exit interview with an HR professional and someone from management. Terminated employees naturally are upset and may be sad, angry or even hostile. Terminated employees also tend to personalize and emotionalize the termination. For example, they might say that their supervisor dislikes them or that they are being unfairly targeted. Being able to cite the exact dates and times that the employee did not meet standards will eliminate these situations. Also, remember to only document and share objective data, not subjective opinions. For example, avoid documenting the chronically late employee as being “lazy” or “irresponsible.” Instead, simply state the exact facts. Remember, less is better when it comes to documented facts.

Preemptive Strike

Many employees are understandably shocked when they are suddenly terminated without prior warning. Failing to inform the employee of poor performance or chronic problems only increases the likelihood of a wrongful termination lawsuit. For example, if you haven’t discussed a sales employee’s poor performance, don’t expect them to understand why you suddenly chose to terminate them. Instead, formally discuss and document all performance-related problems with the employee. Be sure to sit down with them at least on two occasions before the termination and provide written performance expectations with clear consequences. If necessary, provide them with written warnings of unacceptable behavior. Doing so will completely protect your company from a legal standpoint. If you have any legal questions, consult with a business lawyer from a firm in your area.

A Graceful Exit

Terminations are stressful for both the employee and HR professional. Ensure that the logistics of the termination meeting goes smoothly. Always try to terminate the employee at the end of the day or when there aren’t many employees around. Escorting an angry employee to their desk during the middle of the day will most likely result in an inappropriate outburst and stress out fellow employees. Keep in mind that fellow employees may not agree with the termination decision. Therefore, privacy and confidentiality are key.

End on a Positive Note

It is possible to end the termination on a positive note. If feasible, offer severance pay and allow the employee to cash out their unused sick/vacation leave. Explain how unemployment insurance works and provide advice on other employment opportunities. If possible, terminate the employee at the beginning of the month, so that their health insurance will automatically run until the end of the month. Focus on being helpful and professional while offering benefits will help the termination end on a positive note.

In conclusion, proper documentation, focusing on the facts and informing employees of a potential termination will ensure a proper termination process. Be sure to offer a graceful exit and benefits to the terminated employee.

Author: Anica Oaks is a professional content and copywriter who graduated from the University of San Francisco. She loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she’s used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty. You can connect with Anica here. If you are looking for legal counsel for your business, Anica suggests getting in touch with a business lawyer from Doré Law Group.

Published: July 28, 2015

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