Tips on How to Correctly Terminate an Employee

By September 21, 2023 September 27th, 2023 Building a Better Team

Last Updated on September 27, 2023 by Dave Schoenbeck

Employee termination is something no sane leader likes to do, but it is occasionally necessary for the business’s business’s overall health.  You must handle the process carefully to minimize the impact on the employee and the rest of the workplace.

Here’s what you need to know about how to terminate an employee.

A woman leaves her office with a box of persona effects that depicts how to terminate an employee

How to Fire Someone with Dignity

It’s essential to take a humanistic but professional approach to employee termination.  While it will likely be uncomfortable, how you handle terminations can affect your company culture and employee morale.  Here’s how to fire someone as painlessly as possible.

  1. No surprises.  A firing should never come as a shock to the employee.  When you first notice an issue with their work, you should communicate what they need to do to remain employed.  Create a performance improvement plan and clarify that they will be fired if they do not improve by a specific date.
  2. Document everything.  This includes performance issues, disciplinary actions, and any conversations leading up to the termination.  Having a paper trail can protect your company in the case of legal disputes or unemployment claims.  Trust your intuition.
  3. Make any necessary arrangements beforehand.  For example, assume that your employee will not be inclined to help you gain access to their files once they’ve been let go.  Be sure that loose ends are tied up and that your IT person has access to their email inbox, work computer, and passwords before the firing.
  4. Do it in private.  Don’t make a spectacle of the termination.  Instead, choose a time that will be minimally disruptive to your office and pull the employee into a private meeting.  It can help to have someone from HR with you to answer questions and ensure proper protocol, but avoid bringing in more people whenever possible.
  5. Follow procedure.  To avoid the potential for a lawsuit, ensure you understand your company’s strategy for terminating an employee and follow it strictly.
  6. Be compassionate but firm.  Keep your sentences short and to the point.  For the employee, this will be hard news to hear.  Avoid the urge to empathize; you likely don’t know how they feel verbally.  Hear the employees out, but don’t let them sway your opinion.  Remain gracious and calm no matter how emotional things get.  It’s easy to make promises about future references and referrals.  Please don’t do it.
  7. Revoke access immediately.  Tensions will run high after the firing, and employees sometimes make impulsive decisions to delete or sabotage their work.  Please don’t allow them to leave them alone at their workstation.  Instead, supervise as they pack up their desk and immediately revoke their access to company files and emails.

Remember that no matter how much bad blood there is between your company and the outgoing employee, how you handle firings can impact the morale of the rest of your team.  Inevitably, one firing makes others worry they might be next.

You can alleviate this anxiety by ensuring that the rules for firing an employee are well-documented and followed correctly every time.  In addition, make your employees know that aside from cases of gross misconduct, they will always be given a chance to improve with clearly defined parameters before they are let go.

Do you need help with figuring out how to terminate an employee?  A business coach can help you establish processes.  Click here for a complimentary coaching call, and we can work on correcting employee performance issues in your business.

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