The Ultimate Guide to Firing an Employee: What You Need to Do

In October 2019, 1,769,000 people were laid off or fired in the US. Yet, if it's your job to make the tough decision of firing an employee, it can feel momentous.

Read on as we take a look at the best way to fire an employee that protects your business and the employee's dignity.


Things to Consider When Firing an Employee

Finding qualified employees is hard. Even after doing everything you can to recruit the right people, firing an employee is bound to fall into your lap at some point.

Perhaps someone's productivity or performance is not up to snuff. Or maybe their attitude is lowering the team's morale. Perhaps you've gotten complaints from clients and other employees.

The most important thing to note about firing an employee is it should never come as a surprise. The poor performance or behavioral issues of the employee should be well documented and have been a subject of conversation between you and the worker for some time.

As the bearer of bad news, it's hard not to feel bad about what you have to do, especially if you genuinely like the person or hired them when they first started.

Many managers are surprised at how uncomfortable they feel in a firing meeting. Mentally prepare yourself for that and be sure to keep your emotions in check.

Before you fire an employee, you need to think about legal considerations as well.


Legal Considerations

If you don't have an HR department, you may want to get some legal advice. This ensures that you adhere to all the legal requirements. The last thing you want is to get entangled in a legal issue that could cost you a lot of time and money.

Likely, you'll need to have a documented paper trail that outlines the employee's poor performance and behavior. This file should include unsatisfactory performance reviews and any warnings you may have given.

Make sure you review the state law regarding vacation time issues, as well as the time limits for providing a final check.

Before you set the meeting with the employee, draft a termination letter. Ask your HR department or lawyer to review it. During the meeting, verbally let the employee know about the termination and also hand him or her the letter.



Before you invite the employee into the termination meeting, think about logistics.

Does the employee have company property, like a laptop at home?

How will you give the employee their last paycheck? Who will escort the employee from the premises?

You'll also have to make a plan to handle any emails that the employee gets and change company passwords the employee had access to.

Yes, it's a lot to tackle. Ideally, you should make a checklist so you remember everything you need to do.


The Best Way to Fire an Employee

Now, let's look at the best-case scenario when firing an employee.

If possible, do so in person. Choose a room that's out of earshot and sight of the other employees. This is a sensitive conversation and the employee will not want spectators.


Have a Witness

Having a neutral third party in the room is a great way to protect yourself from legal issues. This person should be the opposite gender from you so you protect your company against allegations of harassment or discrimination.

This witness should not be the employee's peer co-worker. If possible, choose someone from another department or team.

If you can't have another person in the room, record the conversation just to be safe.


Make It Respectful and Brief

Don't beat around the bush and make sure your words are clear so the employee can't misunderstand what you're saying. Do not say that you're sorry. Even if you feel that way, it will not help the situation.

Be sure to explain the reason for the termination and tell the employee the next steps. For example, "I will escort you to your desk to collect your personal belongings. You will hand in your access card and I will escort you from the building."

Give information about last pay, benefits, and severance if applicable. If the employee is expected to sign a waiver to get the severance, briefly explain the terms and give the employee a copy of the document to take home.

Explain that the employee doesn't need to make a decision at this meeting.

If the employee has a non-compete or nondisclosure agreement, briefly review those documents with the employee.

Ask if the employee has any questions. This conversation should last no longer than 15 minutes.

Then, stand up, wish the employee good luck, and shake their hand. Follow through with the plan you've outlined for getting the employee off the premises.


Make an Announcement

Once the employee has left the premises, you'll need to let the rest of your team know about the termination.

You can call a quick meeting or send out a group email, whatever you think best. Don't go into details. You don't have to say that the employee was fired.

Simply explain that the individual is no longer an employee. To avoid rumors, invite employees who have questions to come speak to you.

Your employees will likely be worried that they might be fired too. Assure your workers that they are valued members of your team.


Make Firing an Employee as Painless as Possible

No one wants to do it, but sometimes, firing an employee is the best option for your business.

We hope this article helps you understand the best way to fire someone. We know owning a small business is hard work.

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