The Best Way to Fire an Employee

By: First Union


The Best Way to Fire an Employee

How do I handle this process of firing one of my employees gracefully, so I don't burn any bridges? How do I fire someone without hurting their feelings and making the situation even more uncomfortable? How do I create a plan for my first time firing someone, so I am prepared for whatever comes my way?

Firing someone is definitely one of the most difficult situations between an employer and the employee. We never want to go through firing someone, but it's necessary if you have an employee who is unproductive and not meeting your business goals. As tough as this can be, once you let someone go, you'll be opening doors for better-qualified candidates. Take your time during this process and have open communication with your human resources department and other team members to gain a bigger perspective on the employees' performance. You'll want to have a plan of action and never want to fire someone immediately unless there was an illegal situation involved. You'll avoid possible lawsuits and hurt feelings if the employee has some warning that they are getting fired.

Give the Employee a Warning

Let's say you are going through a rebranding of your website and you need each employee on deck to create the best possible content for your website. However, you recently hired an employee who specializes in writing but isn't creating content fast enough for your website launch. Or, they aren't keeping up to speed, making countless errors, and can't write in the correct voice. Your website is launching soon. It's been almost six months and the employee is making zero improvements. You're running out of time and still need content written for your landing pages and the rest of your writers are swamped. You and your team are becoming more and more frustrated with the unproductive employee and you are considering letting them go. Before you do, remember it's important you don't want to blindside them. Make sure you have been documenting their progress and see if there is room for improvement. Maybe you feel this employee is a qualified writer and you want to see if there is another option before you let them go. Sit down the employee and review their performance together. Express your concerns and be honest with them. It might be a good idea to invite a human resources representative into the meeting, so you have a witness of all outcomes.

Present a performance improvement plan (PIP/) to spearhead constructive discussion between the employee and the employer to clarify work performance and push improvement. The plan outlines the employee's goals and helps the employee realize they need to step up their game and perform at a higher level. You and the human resources team should review the plan before presenting it to the employee. Consider adding more tasks for the employee and come up with a timeframe.

Keep in mind you'll want to create a plan that's realistic and fair. You'll need to get the plan approved by upper-level management as well as human resources. If done right, the PIP can revamp a struggling employee into a high performer. Once the employee agrees to the plan and there is still no improvement at least you know you've tried your best and it's time to let them go. The employee should be somewhat aware they are potentially getting fired and this will save everyone from confusion and hurt feelings.

The Meeting

Once you've decided to fire the employee, schedule the face-to-face meeting. Face-to-face meetings are important because they will help the employee feel somewhat better about the situation. You'll be able to answer any questions that may come up and the employee will feel respected. Never fire someone over an email or phone, as this is highly unprofessional and perceived as lazy. Have all of your paperwork ready, and make sure you invite human resources. Carve out enough time to talk things over but you don't want the meeting to linger because it might add tension and become awkward. Try to make it quick but you don't want the employee to feel rushed. During the meeting, keep communication concise and focused. Give as many examples as possible and have proof of low performance if needed.

Go into the meeting prepared and keep your emotions in check. You never know how the employee is going to react. Even if the employee is easy to get along with and super nice, they can lash out and cause a scene. This is another reason why having human resources at the meeting is important so if something does happen, you'll have a backup person as a witness. Consider holding the meeting in the morning or after hours, so the employee doesn't have to walk out the door when everyone else is there. Remember this is a business decision and not a personal decision. Although you may become emotionally try not to take it personally if the employee gets choked about the situation.

Final Steps

Finally, you've made it through the meeting and broke the news to your employee. If it's relevant, make sure the employee has all the paperwork needed such as a severance package, and final paycheck. Have them meet with human resources for a few moments to collect and sign the paperwork, if needed. Be certain the employee has collected all the belongings. If they aren't comfortable with cleaning their desk right away you can always mail them their belongings. Ask the employee if there are unfinished projects, unanswered emails, and phone calls. Perhaps there are other employees that are aware of what is happening, but some were left in the dark. If the employee got along with your team and there are no hard feelings, consider giving them the option of telling their colleagues or if they aren't comfortable you can tell the team once they leave. Depending on the situation, you can express to your team your employee simply resigned if you don't want added stress in the office. There are many ways to go about making an announcement and it really does depend on the employee and if your team got along with them.

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