7 Tips to Consider When Firing an Employee

packing up deskFiring employees is not easy. For most employers, it’s not something done lightly, either—termination can have many consequences, from a decline in morale to litigation. While the tips presented here should not be considered legal advice, general knowledge and awareness is important, too. For dealing with a specific situation, a human resources professional or employment attorney can always be consulted for expert advice.

If you’re an employer faced with the unpleasant task of terminating a worker, consider the following ideas and tips to make the process a little easier on everyone:

1. Don’t do it alone: have a witness in the room. Whether it’s the HR director, the employee’s supervisor, or a non-management staff member—a corroborating witness will be handy if the employee decides to sue. A witness also discourages any allegations of misconduct, and can help keep anger in check.

2. Don’t fire anyone on their birthday: chances are slim that it would be, but it happens—and nothing makes an employer look more impersonal. During your due diligence and preparation phase prior to terminating, check the employee’s file and avoid the week around their birthday, if at all possible.

3. Compile the paperwork ahead of time: Pull together any agreements or waivers the person will need to sign. Have their final paycheck, or severance pay ready—or a document showing when it will be direct deposited to the employee’s account. Any written warnings or job performance evaluations should be handy, as well—in case you need to refer to them for specific reasons the termination is happening.

4. Be ready to give specific reasons for the termination, listing work performance issues—not personality or personal problems. And, be sure the employee knows for certain that they are being terminated. Then, listen patiently and answer questions. Don’t let the conversation go on for long, or over-explain or debate the issue. Let the employee know that the decision is final. Repeat the reasons you have prepared, if necessary.

5. Have an exit strategy: Disbelief and anger are natural. Some employees are embarrassed, and some become emotional. Allow the employee to vent or cry—and then give them time to pull themselves together. If the employee’s anger becomes unmanageable, have someone ready to step in and remove him or her from the room.

6. Don’t allow the employee to disrupt other workers: let him or her know they have a set amount of time to collect personal items, return company property, and leave. Keep an eye out for any trouble, but don’t feel that you must escort them from the building. It’s fine to end the termination on a pleasant note, if possible, by wishing the employee luck.

7. Inform remaining staff: While it is important to maintain the terminated employee’s privacy, his or her fellow workers need to be told about the situation. Just keep the details to a minimum; if the termination affects any remaining staff, let them know how; and if there is a replacement plan, share it. Don’t allow personal questions regarding the employee or the circumstances surrounding the termination.

No one likes to terminate employees. When it is necessary to do so, make it a little less painful by following these steps—and check with an HR professional for legal advice.

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