How to Fire an Employee as Smoothly as Possible

Fired office worker packs up his desk.

Fired office worker packs up his desk.Jim RudmanBy Jim Rudman, CEO, Ashton Tweed

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It’s always uncomfortable firing an employee and the task never gets any easier. Unfortunately, it is part of a leader’s responsibility to do what’s best for the team and the company as a whole. Additionally, there is extra pressure to fire employees gracefully because the manner in which it’s done reflects back on the leader. However, there are some tips to make sure the dismissal goes as smoothly as possible for both parties involved:


Have zero doubt.

Make sure this move is the right and logical choice. You must be 100% sure moving forward with the termination. Make sure this employee has had fair warning and opportunities to improve, especially if you are letting him or her go for poor performance. If there is no doubt, you should be able to explain your reasoning in a clear and thoughtful way.


There’s a time and place.

Choose the right time and the right private space to meet face-to-face. Consider the time of day, when the person will be leaving the building, etc. These tips might seem obvious, but it’s important to be sensitive to the other’s person situation and make it as comfortable as possible.


Don’t drag it out.

Give the news at the start of the meeting and keep it simple. In uncomfortable situations, people tend to talk too much. Just stick to the point and be professional. On that note, don’t get sucked into an argument. Everyone receives bad news differently; so if the person starts to argue, do not engage it.


Have post-termination details ready.

Be prepared to answer logistical questions the person might have after being let go. For example: When is their last day? Should they leave right after the meeting? What are their severance details? It’s less awkward if these details are already decided and the employee does not have to wait around for answers.


Be kind.

Offer to keep communications open if he or she has questions after the meeting. Emotions can be charged during such meetings, and the person may realize they have concerns to discuss in retrospect. But be careful not to give off the impression that the decision isn’t 100% certain.


Address the team.

After the termination meeting, openly explain to your team why the decision was made to let that person go. The firing of an employee affects the team and they should have an opportunity to understand what happened and what to expect moving forward.


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