How to Fire an Employee

How to Fire an Employee: 8 Ways to Make It Less Harsh

Have you ever had to fire an employee? It’s surely an unpleasant situation. Even if you have a valid reason to make that decision, it’s still difficult for you to tell the employee that they’ll lose their job.

As a manager, it helps to remember that firing an employee now and then is for the good of the company. However, if you don’t know how to do it properly, you can make employees feel offended and sour.

Here are 8 tips on how to fire an employee without making it a harsh and obnoxious situation.

1. Prepare everything beforehand

It’s important to establish a procedure for firing an employee. The goal is to have a framework for taking disciplinary actions and avoid extending an unpleasant situation for both sides.

You can start with what behaviors may lead to the termination of employment—policy violations or low work performance. What behaviors are considered policy violations? How do you know if an employee’s performance doesn’t match your expectations?

How many verbal/written warnings do you need to send to the employee before deciding on firing them? What types of questions do you need to ask to reverse the situation? What paperwork do you need to prepare?

2. Make face-to-face conversations

Unless you can’t see the employee face-to-face due to the pandemic or valid reasons, most employees won’t accept being fired by an email, call, or text.

Firing an employee via digital means is impersonal and unprofessional. It can cause resentment and wrath, which can lead to damaging your company reputation.

In the age of social media, it’s easy for an angry ex-employee to rant about their previous company on the internet. Keeping your reputation is vital to attract both customers and high-potential job candidates.

3. Give notice with clear explanation

The way you deliver the termination notice and explain the reason for the termination has an important impact on the employee.

An unclear or impolite explanation can lead to an endless argument later. Or the employee turns sour and always wonders “Why did this company fire me?” This only makes the experience more obnoxious for both parties.

Make sure you have a legitimate reason and even proofs for firing an employee. You’d better have adequate metrics, results, or evidence that show why you have to go for that decision.

4. Have a witness

Having someone to witness the termination process reduces the risk of resistance, threats, or later being accused by the employee for words you didn’t say.

This may sound unnecessary, but these sensitive cases often result in unwanted lawsuits or chronic disputes. So you need to be extremely careful. Consider hiring a lawyer if you’re not sure about what to do and what to say.

5. Don’t extend the frustration

If you’ve met with the employee to review their performance many times and they still haven’t improved, there’s no point in extending the frustration by giving them more chances or time to change.

It’s better to give clear explanation, show proofs of ineffective performance or policy violations, and deliver that termination statement.

You can say something like: “We have discussed a lot about your results and work history. HR is in the process of terminating the contract because your performance and work results don’t meet the company’s goals and principles. I hope you will be successful in your future work and find a position that is more suitable for you.”

6. Provide support if necessary

Not every fired employee is problematic. Sometimes, they just don’t match your company’s expectations. You can suggest a few vacancies you think will suit them to support them.

7. Close all access to company systems with fired employees

For security and privacy reason, close access of the fired employee to company systems, email accounts, passwords, etc. You don’t want them to have access to the company’s confidential information, especially when they leave in negativity and anger (it happens!).

8. Avoid sudden termination

Termination is an extreme decision, and you need to make sure that you don’t regret making that decision. Even if the company policy is “zero tolerance” for certain mistakes or behaviors, it’s a good idea to reconsider whether the employee deserves to be fired.

Again, you should talk to the employee about their substandard results or violations and give them time to make changes. If they don’t make any progress, then there’s no hesitation to let them go.

It’s also important to pay attention to each employee’s work progress and urge changes before it gets so bad that you’ll have to terminate someone immediately.

End with a positive note

No one wants to hurt an employee’s self-esteem. It’s hard enough for you to just fire employee, so the employee who received the news must have been through a severe emotional trauma. Don’t be cold and harsh. Being sympathetic and polite is the least you can do.

Sometimes, you have to make a difficult decision, and that’s OK. Being prepared for situations like this will make it easier for both parties. And consider consulting a legal expert if you want to avoid legal disputes.

Read more: How to Deal With Difficult Employees

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