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How to Fire an Employee – The Right Way

How to Fire an Employee – The Right Way

Firing an employee is probably one of the most difficult things that an employer has to do. You tell yourself that it is just business, but you also have a heart and don’t want to be the cause of someone else’s struggles – even if it is their own actions that created the situation in the first place.

So, how do you fire an employee the right way, increasing the odds that you’ll both walk away from the experience relatively unscathed and possibly without any hard feelings? Here are some tips to consider:

  • Know your company’s termination policy and procedure inside and out. There is nothing worse than letting someone go due to a violation that isn’t fire-able per your own guidelines. At a minimum, it makes you look foolish. At the maximum, it can open you up for a costly and time intensive lawsuit.
  • Gather all of the necessary facts before taking action. Talk to people who witnessed or have independent knowledge of the offense, if they exist. The more facts you have beforehand, the stronger your position will be if the person tries to talk their way out of it or justify their actions.
  • Do it privately. No one likes to be humiliated in front of other people, even if they know that what they did is wrong. Have enough character and integrity to let the person go behind closed doors. That way, if they do break down, they will at least be able to gather themselves before stepping foot out the door and before their former colleagues and friends.
  • Highlight their behaviors, not their personality. Talk about the behaviors that the person did or did not do that have caused you to want to show them the door. Don’t make it a personal attack or all you will do is create more tension, putting them on the defensive and increasing the odds that they will try to justify their actions.
  • Give them the opportunity to ask questions. Every relationship benefits from closure and a professional one is no different. Give the employee a chance to ask any questions prior to asking them to leave your office for good. This one simple act of kindness shows that you are aware of the fact that they are human and you are going to treat them as such even in this less-than-admirable circumstance.
  • Offer them parting words of encouragement. Finally, your goal is not to break the person down so that they feel worthless and more of a liability than an asset. Instead, you should strive to help lessen their feelings of hopelessness or disdain by offering them words of encouragement at the conclusion of the meeting. For example, you may want to point out the strengths they have that will help them secure a new job or you might reiterate all of the good things they’ve done while in your employ.

Granted, sometimes there is nothing you can do to stop hard feelings from forming and it is up to the person being fired whether they are going to handle it like an adult or throw a tantrum like a two-year-old. However, follow these guidelines and you’ll have a better chance of the meeting ending on a more peaceful note, which is always the best case scenario.

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by Christina DeBusk // Freelance writer, author, and small business consultant committed to helping entrepreneurs achieve higher levels of success.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.