How to fire an employee (nicely and properly)

by Josh Biggs in Business on 31st August 2021

If you’ve been tasked with the awful job of firing an employee, it can be incredibly difficult to know what to do or say in the situation. Especially if it is someone you work closely with or consider a good friend. 

Terminating employment doesn’t have to be this confrontational nightmare – for either you or the employee. It is, however, a very sensitive situation that needs to be handled with respect, empathy and sensitivity. There are also several administrative processes that need to be followed. 

For those preparing to fire a member of staff, here are the proper steps to follow. If you want to take the stress of termination away from fellow colleagues and managers, you might want to consider HR outsourcing Salt Lake, to help with the difficult conversations and administrative processes. 

  1. Keep record of all the facts

When making the final decision to fire someone, all the facts and reasons should be accurately documented. That way, in the worst-case scenario – where an employee sues the company for unlawful or unnecessary dismissal – you’ll have everything you need to prove otherwise. 

  1. Be respectful 

Whether or not you agree with the termination or even if you can’t wait to see the last of the employee, you should always be respectful in the conversation. Things can easily get heated if things aren’t kept entirely respectful. You should always have someone else in the room for official conversations – like HR personnel – to help mediate the discussion and claim witness to what was said. Maintain a calm and neutral tone of voice and ensure to keep opinions well out of the conversation. 

  1. Plan your discussion 

Even if you’ve fired a hundred people in the past or this is your first time, it’s always a good idea to have a plan in place of what you’ll say. Termination isn’t going to be a nice conversation for anyone involved, so make sure you know exactly what you’re going to say, and practice how you’ll say it. 

It’s also best to keep it brief – no more than 5-10 minutes should be needed.

  1. Do not negotiate

Termination shouldn’t be negotiable. A lot of thought will have gone into making the difficult decision and the decision should therefore be final. Employees are more than welcome to ask questions about why or what happens now, but you shouldn’t fall into a debate or argument about the reasoning. 

Be respectful, but firm. 

Backing down from firing an employee will quickly spread around the office like wildfire – which can seriously impact the way your staff react to warnings or misconduct at work. If staff see that termination is negotiable, you’ll never end up firing anyone ever again.

  1. Don’t make light of the situation 

There is a time and a place for humor and this is not the time, nor place for it. If employees feel like they have been ridiculed or not taken seriously, they could feel bitter, angry or even file a wrongful termination claim against you. Jokes can easily be misconstrued as discriminatory and trying to make light of the situation – even if it’s in the hope to ease your own nerves – could put your company at risk. 

You also need to ensure you don’t use any language or discuss anything that cannot be documented. Using non-inflammatory terms such as ‘violating a drug free workplace policy’ rather than defamatory terms like ‘drug abuse’ or ‘addiction’ will help to make the conversation much less confrontational and offensive. 

  1. End on a pleasant note 

No matter what the reasoning for termination is, you should always wish the employee luck for the future. Termination isn’t always about an employee doing something majorly wrong, they simply may not be a suitable fit for your company. Wishing them luck in finding future employment will bring the conversation to a natural end, while also ending it on a positive.

  1. All company property should be returned

If the termination is with immediate effect, someone should accompany the employee back to their desk to have all company property returned. Laptops, keys, ID badges and work phones are all included in this. 

For employees that will work a notice period, all items should be returned on the final day. It is good practice to have a check-out process so that an employee can sign all items back into the HR office. That way you know that everything has been properly returned. 

It’s integral that this is done within the final few days of employment, as it can be much harder to have things returned after they have fully left the company. 

  1. Remove user access

In the modern world, most people have their work emails and contacts linked to their personal devices. Some might even use their personal phone for business. In order to stop the employee having access to confidential and company information, IT should deactivate their accounts and remove all access. Termination can easily leave members of staff bitter and you wouldn’t want to leave your business exposed to risk in their hands. 

  1. Give the employee time 

The worst part of termination comes at the end of the discussion – where you and the fired employee will have to face the rest of the workplace, whether that’s to collect their things, or work their notice period. 

With this in mind, you should give the employee time to themselves in private to process the decision and compose themselves. For those who are terminated with immediate effect, you could choose to have security on stand outside so that they can leave the premises discreetly. 

It might also be a good idea to organize the meeting for the least busy time of the day or have the meeting on a different floor to where their close colleagues sit. That way you can minimize the distress for both the employee and their team. 

10. Document the meeting 

Although you’ve already documented your reasoning for termination, you will need to document everything for a second time. When it comes to unemployment insurance claims, all this documentation will be essential. 

You should also take note of what was said in the conversation and anything that occurs after the meeting. 

It feels impossible to be prepared for difficult conversations like termination. However, with the right processes in place and a plan of what you need to say, the meeting will likely be a short and pain-free encounter. 

Categories: Business