9 Do’s & Don’ts for Firing Employees

Proceed with Caution

If you’re an employer you’ve likely had to fire people. It’s never easy and the process can be fraught with hazards. If you must let someone go, be quick, be kind and be careful. Keep in mind these nine tips for terminating an employee.

9. Consider It Carefully

DO Consider the need to terminate an employee carefully. If the decision is sound and rational, act quickly so the potential damage to your business and/or staff morale is not allowed to linger any longer than necessary.

8. No Passing the Buck

DON’T Assign the task to someone who doesn’t directly supervise the employee. Putting the unpleasant duty off on someone who has not been directly responsible for the employee is likely to backfire not only for the employee being let go, but the move will also be noticed by your remaining staff. The person doing the firing does not know the employee and would, therefore, be unlikely to have any personal stake in handling the termination well.

7. Document Everything

DO Have clear company standards in place and in writing that outline what behaviors or performance issues constitute a termination worthy offense. Verify the facts surrounding the behavior, performance or activity that violates those specific standards. If the employee is being fired for poor performance, document that you have held multiple meetings with him to address the performance issue prior to the decision to terminate his employment.

6. Keep Emotions in Check

DON’T fire an employee on the spot unless the employee’s behaviors or actions are so egregious or dangerous that serious damage to the company or the safety of employees is threatened. Take time to think it over first. Get your ducks in a row, your emotions under control and your paperwork taken care of before letting the employee go.

5. R-E-S-P-E-C-T

DO Show respect for the employee. Never email a termination notice or stick it in their mailbox. Conduct the firing someplace private. Have a letter prepared outlining the reasons for the firing, date of firing and when benefits will end. Hand that letter to the employee along with his or her final paycheck, unless there’s a contract that specifies otherwise. Make sure you are aware of their transportation situation. Don’t fire them in the morning if they are counting on a company car pool to get home at the end of the day.

4. Avoid the Holidays

DON’T fire or lay off people on Friday or just before a holiday. Being fired is a traumatic experience. Bear in mind that emotional help, counseling or advisory services might not be available on weekends or over holidays. If you let the person go earlier in the week, it gives them a chance to get a jump-start on finding another job.

3. Have a Witness

DO have someone else present. If you have a human resources department, it should be one of them. Have them take notes. If you make any kind of recording of the meeting, tell the employee up front. Make sure you have plans for security. If you have security people, have them close by. Terminations are traumatic and emotions can run very high.

2. No Waffling

DON’T allow the meeting to become an argument over whether the firing decision was fair or correct. Allow the employee to ask questions. Be sympathetic, but firm. Make it clear that the decision is final.

1. Stick to Policy

DO carefully follow your company’s termination policies and procedures to the letter. Secure or back up any computer files, records or company information the employee may have charge over in case the employee takes the news badly. Consult your attorney if you suspect the termination might trigger a lawsuit.


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