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  • Writer's pictureAmerican Staffing Professionals

How to Fire Someone

Why is it so hard to terminate an employee? Well, because it just sucks. It is not something anyone is ever truly trained or prepared for. You are about to affect someone’s life in a very negative way. There have been studies that show that a parent losing their job can affect multiple generations. It is something you should not take lightly or take pleasure in. As employers, it is our responsibility to do our best to make this process as smooth as possible for the employee and the company you own or represent. It will be one of the toughest things you will ever do and yet it still needs to be done, especially if you have someone who is ultimately affecting the company in a negative way. 

Proper communication. It all starts with the new employee acknowledging in writing his or her roles and responsibilities with clear performance goals. This is the play book you will go over when you have performance reviews with the employee. Why is this important? With any termination that ends up going to a state investigation or a wrongful termination claim, paperwork with clear acknowledged expectations and performance reviews along with showing you have made every opportunity for an employee to make the necessary changes to behavior or performance will ultimately save you money and time. 

1. Do they know it’s coming?

If the employee will be surprised or completely caught off guard by what is about to happen, then you have failed as a boss. That might seem a little harsh, but it is a fact you have not been honest with yourself or the employee. Something has led to this happening and the employee should already know it’s coming. 

2. Clear Expectations

Every employee should be having some type of performance reviews. This is a great time to discuss performance and define clear expectations. All too often managers and supervisors avoid this discussion. Defining areas of improvement is critical, this should be done in writing and have the employee always sign that they know what is expected of them, if possible, put a date to the expectation. This is the first stage of proper documentation to support a possible termination. 

3. They are not meeting my expectations

You are at a major decision crossroads. The employee is not meeting the company’s expectations. You have discussed what they needed to do to correct this and they have acknowledged those expectations, but unfortunately, they have not made the necessary changes. What do you do? This is where employers must make that tough decision. Move forward with termination or continue hoping the employee changes or corrects their behavior. This is ultimately your call, but you are in a much better position to move forward with termination if you decide. 

4. Pull the band aid.

What’s worse than firing an employee? Keeping one who is hurting the company financially or poisoning the workplace. Sometimes it needs to happen and there is never a perfect time to terminate an employee. If you have made all the correct steps this employee should know its coming and more than likely is already looking elsewhere for employment. 

5. Short and Compassionate


Keep your discussion to the point. (Example: John, unfortunately you have not met the expectations we established. At this time, we will be separating employment. John, we will need to collect your keys and computer.) I know this may be hard and going against the compassionate side of who you are.  But it is important you do not get into dialogue with the employee. This always leads to a more negative or hostile environment. If you need to stand and open the door then do so. Escort the employee from the building and wish them luck. 

6. What about their stuff

Personal items are a pain to deal with during terminations. If you are worried about an employee being hostile, I would suggest having a fellow supervisor to be a runner or assist in collecting items from the employees’ desk while the termination is taking place. This will help eliminate risk of an outburst or negatively affecting other employees.  If you have allowed your employees to bring everything from home including the kitchen sink, well you get to help take that out for them or make several trips back and forth to their car, that’s not fun. One suggestion is keeping a no clutter policy and have several days a year where you have cleanup workspace times. Avoid making the employee collect their things in front of fellow employees. I have had to mail employees stuff multiple times to avoid conflicts, do this if it will help avoid disruption. 

7. Move on

 All too often companies let the termination of an employee affect the workplace by allowing the gossip train to go around and around. After a termination bring in supervisors or managers informing them of the separation without details. This will help mitigate the gossip. 

What about the workload? If the termination will affect other employees’ workload, bring the teams in and inform them of the termination without details and assure them of your plans and assistance you might need from them. 

8. Positive for the company

 A termination is not always a negative. If done properly, it can and will rejuvenate the company. It lets other employees know that you do care about the future success of the company and ultimately their future success as an employee.

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