Firing an Employee with Respect

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Firing an employee face-to-face can be one of the most difficult things an employer has to do. Most managers dread the idea of firing an employee and often it’s the saddest part of their job. If you have made the decision to fire, it is important to be well-prepared before you break the bad news.

A good first step toward firing an employee is to make sure it is the last possible step you can take. As an employer, you need to make sure that there are no other options at this point for the employee. Firing should only occur after a series of performance discussions and documented actions have been completed and reviewed. By taking these precautions you are ensuring that the employee did have fair warning. In other words, firing an employee should not just come out of the blue.

Be well-prepared when firing an employee

When you have made the decision about firing an employee, it is time to set a meeting. These meetings can be tough, so it is smart to take time ahead of your meeting to adequately prepare. Have a thorough explanation of your decision prepared before the meeting. The point is to be objective and professional when you are explaining yourself. Don’t feel like you need to justify your decision to the employee, just state the reasons that you are terminating them and leave it at that.

You also need to be prepared for the questions they will ask, such as when their termination date will be, if there will be severance pay, if there is career counseling available, and when benefits will end. Prepare with the help of your HR department so you have every answer available during the meeting.

The truth is, losing a job can be devastating, so there is a real possibility for a huge range of emotions throughout your meeting. The key is to not get caught up in emotional responses. Be respectful of what your employee is saying and offer to discuss at a later date when emotions are not as heightened. Another option is to have a trained counselor join the meeting so they can provide their expert advice. Make sure you treat the employee like you would want to be treated in this situation.

At the end of the meeting, before you leave, once all is said and done, extend a kind hand to them. Provide contact information for yourself or for someone else such as an HR representative who can answer any questions that come up later. It is important to end on the most positive note you can. Wish the employee good luck and if you can say something positive about their tenure at the company, this is the time to do it.

Know that you may feel terrible at the end of the meeting, no matter how much the employee deserved to be let go. However, stand firm in your rational analysis of the situation and know that your decision was the best one you could have made. Firing an employee is never easy, but if you are prepared and make an effort to be civil and respectful toward the employee, you will make the best of what will always be a painful situation.