Having to fire an employee is one of the most difficult and traumatic decisions that a business owner can make. Letting an employee go is hard not only on the employee, but also on the employer, and the other employees in your company. It is a decision that should never be undertaken lightly.

Common reasons for firing an employee include:

  • Performance-related issues
  • Poor personality fit or attitude fit with company
  • Attendance issues
  • Violating company policies
  • Lack of work
  • Company reorganization

We’ve put together some quick tips on the do’s and don’ts of terminating an employee:

What to Do:

    • Make the firing decision carefully, but once made, act quickly – Firing an employee is one of the most difficult decisions an employer can make, regardless of the reason for the termination. Make sure the decision is well-reasoned and thought out, and then if the decision is made to terminate, act quickly so that it does not continue to negatively affect you or other employees.
    • If firing due to performance-related reasons, ensure that multiple meetings have been held with the employee prior to making the firing decision to address and correct the performance issue.
    • Be respectful and discreet when having the termination meeting. The meeting should preserve the dignity of the employee.
    • Ensure that your severance or notice arrangements meet legal requirements. Consult an employment lawyer if necessary.
    • Ensure that you have a written termination letter and release which documents the terms and conditions of the termination.


What Not to Do:

    • Don’t get personal. The reason for firing the employee should be business-related or due to performance issues, not due to personal, subjective or emotional opinions about the employee.
    • Don’t make a decision to terminate for cause without conducting a proper investigation. The decision should be based on an objective series of facts, not one or two individual opinions or stories.
    • Don’t hold the termination meeting in a public place. The meeting should be held in a private location, free from disruptions.
    • Don’t go into a termination meeting unprepared. Prepare the written letter, rehearse what you will say, how you will say it, and in what sequence.
    • Don’t get defensive or debate the merits of the firing decision with the employee. Allow the employee to react and raise questions, be understanding and sympathetic, but reinforce that the firing decision is definite and final.

Firing an employee is never easy. Make the decision thoughtfully and with care, and then act.

When in doubt, seek the advice of an employment lawyer or human resources expert prior to making to the decision to let the employee go.


Copyright 2008 Clear HR Consulting Inc. All rights reserved.