How to Fire Someone the Right Way

As a manager or business owner, the unpleasant task of firing someone may sometimes fall to you. That might not be a big deal when the person getting fired has done something truly terrible, but it’s less easy when you have to let someone you like go because they simply can’t perform their job or follow the rules.

Firing someone is difficult, but there are ways to make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible. That can make it better for both the person getting fired and the one doing the firing.

Don’t fire someone out of anger. Be rational and clear. Image source: Getty Images.

Start early

There are some offenses that lead to immediate termination. In those cases, there’s nothing you need to do. If, however, someone is putting their job at risk with a pattern of behavior, you have a responsibility to make them aware of the situation.

Some companies have specific procedures for issuing warnings. If yours does not, cover your bases. Speak with the person and tell them what the issues are that are jeopardizing their job and what steps they need to take to correct the situation. Follow up with a written version of your discussion, and leave no room for ambiguity.

Be clear

In a situation where all procedures have been followed and you have to fire the person, it’s important to do it correctly. You don’t want to make what’s happening any more unpleasant than it has to be.

Call the person into your office or a private setting and be very clear. Explain that they are being let go and lay out the reasons that led to the decision. Have separation papers prepared, and be ready to explain how things like unused vacation days will be handled.

If your company has a human resources department, make sure a representative is there. Keep everything professional. Recognize that the other person may get emotional, and be respectful but resolute.

Tell the company

You don’t need to fully explain why someone was let go — in fact, you should respect the person who got terminated’s privacy. But you should also not have the person simply disappear.

Gather the relevant employees and tell them that the person is no longer with the company. Answer reasonable questions, but don’t feel you need to go into specifics. It’s OK to say something like “they were let go for violating company rules after repeated warnings.” It’s not necessary or even appropriate to share all the details, but you should reassure your remaining staff that the move was not random or unwarranted.

Be professional and steadfast

Sometimes the person getting fired really deserves it, and it’s tempting to take pleasure in the situation. Avoid that and remain fully professional. Don’t give into emotion under any circumstances, and try to remember that no matter what the person on the other end of the situation has done, getting fired is still difficult.

Once you have made the decision to fire someone, stick to it. Don’t make that decision easily. Follow your company’s rules, but don’t let emotion make you change your mind, and don’t let how unpleasant it is to fire someone stop you from doing it when it’s needed.

Hopefully this won’t be a situation you face often. When it happens, however, make sure you’re making the right decision and then execute the firing without wavering.

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