9 Dos & Don’ts for Firing an Employee

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How to Let Employees Go With Dignity & Keep Morale High at the Office

If you’re an employer, you’ve likely had to fire people. It’s never easy and the process can be fraught with hazards.

Keep in mind these nine tips for firing an employee:

1. 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.

2. Don’t: Assign the task to someone who doesn’t directly supervise the employee.

Putting the unpleasant duty on someone who has not been directly responsible for the employee being terminated is likely to upset the employee, and the move will be noticed by your remaining staff. In addition, the person doing the firing is unlikely to have any personal stake in handling the termination well.

3. 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 their 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 them to address the performance issue prior to the decision to terminate their employment.

4. 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 others 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. 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 carpool to get home at the end of the day.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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 they take the news badly. Consult your attorney if you suspect the termination might trigger a lawsuit.

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If you must let someone go, be quick, be kind, and be careful.