Communication Firing Employees

How to Fire an Employee with Less Stress

Having to fire an employee can be an extremely stressful and daunting task for even the seasoned manager.  Even if an employee has been warned about behavior, no one thinks they’ll actually get fired.  In reality, you’d like to drop-kick that employee out of your business, but to keep things fair and legal, may we offer some tips?
Here are a few tips to help a firing situation be fair and less stress to both parties:
1.  ALWAYS Fire an Employee Face to Face. 
Although firing is awkward and uncomfortable, resist the urge to fire someone using a letter, voicemail, email, text or any other kind of method.

When you fire an employee give them the courtesy you would extend to any human being. They deserve a face-to-face meeting.  Nothing else works. The fired employee will remember. and your other employees have even longer memories.


2.  Give the Employee a Warning and DOCUMENT Everything! 

Nothing makes an employee more angry than feeling blind sided when fired. Unless an immediate, egregious act occurs, the employee should experience coaching and performance feedback over time. If you decide the employee is able to improve her performance, provide whatever assistance is needed to encourage and support the employee.

Document each step, especially to protect yourself and your business from possible legal actions. If you are confident the employee can improve, and the employee’s role allows, a performance improvement plan (PIP) may show the employee specific, measurable improvement requirements.

3.  Don’t Fire an Employee Without a Witness

In today’s society, especially in the U.S., anyone can sue anyone for anything (and they do)!  In addition to documentation about the employee’s behavior and work performance, make sure that if you have to fire someone that you have someone else there to witness it.

Take notes of the firing, have a witness sign the termination letter.  A witness will provide needed legal protection, as well as moral support in the event you have to “can” someone.

4.  Make it Short and Sweet

If you have coached and documented an employee’s performance over time and provided frequent feedback, there is no point in rehashing your dissatisfaction when you fire the employee. It accomplishes nothing and is cruel. Yet, every employee will ask you why. So, have an answer prepared that is honest and correctly summarizes the situation without detail or placing blame.

You want the employee to maintain her dignity during an employment termination. So, resist the urge to tell them what a loser they are.  Something tactful you might say is, “We’ve already discussed your performance issues. We are terminating your employment because your performance does not meet the standards we expect from this position. We wish you well in your future endeavors and trust you will locate a position that is a better fit for you.”

5.  Don’t Let them Make off with the Goods (or the Last Word)

When you fire an employee, check and double check that they don’t have any company belongings in their possession.  Make sure company issued cell phones, computers and even vehicles are recovered that day.  Another important consideration is to work with company IT people to make sure the former employee is restricted from having access to the network.  The last thing you need is for a former employee to download and print off sensitive material, lists of clients or other information that you don’t want out in the open.

One final suggestion is to not let the former employee have access to current employees.  Once fired, they need to vacate the premises immediately (or as soon as they can clean out their desk). If the employee wants to send a good-bye note, post her appropriate note for her to all staff.

Terminating employees can be very awkward, but if you take a professional approach, it removes a lot of the awkwardness and doesn’t leave a lot of room for lawsuits.

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