Firing an employee is rarely something that’s fun to do, but as a manager or business owner, it’s something that comes with the territory. Keeping a bad apple can quickly spread like a cancer, bringing the whole business down. For most people, having to fire someone can be nearly as hard as getting fired. Having been on both ends of the stick at one point, I’m quite familiar with both sides.
While it’s sure to be an uncomfortable situation, following these tips can help reduce the risk of being sued for wrongful termination as well as ease the pain and the humiliation.
Make sure you have all your ducks in a row before meeting with the employee. Unless they’ve violated a zero-tolerance policy, such as stealing or doing drugs on the job, a prior warning should have been given. Before being fired, the employee should be given a limited period of time to turn things around, such as 30 days. Document everything and let them know that if the behavior continues, the next step is termination.
Assuming this has already taken place, bring all of the documentation in regard to the errant employee with you to disseminate the news. Know in advance what you plan to say, and have the answers to potential questions such as how they’ll collect their belongings and when they need to leave. If possible, bring a witness to the conversation to eliminate the risk of the employee later claiming you said something that you didn’t.
Unless there are concerns about violence, the meeting should be held in a comfortable, private space. Either in the employee’s private office, or in a neutral space away from prying ears and eyes, preferably a place with a door that closes.
Keep it short
It’s best to keep the conversation short and to the point. More than likely, the employee already knows why he or she is being fired and probably had at least an inkling that it was coming. If you aren’t sure what to say, consider something like, “I’m sorry Lisa, but we have to let you go.”
If you’re uncomfortable, you’ll probably feel the urge to talk too much. Resist, keep it simple, and never argue. Be specific about the pay they’ll be receiving, benefit information, and what type of reference they can expect. Give the employee a moment to gather their thoughts before forcing them out the door, but don’t allow them to linger too long. Once they’re fired, they should leave the premises shortly thereafter.
Closing the meeting
Try to end the meeting on a positive note, wishing the employee the best without promising something that you can’t deliver or offering a well-meaning platitude like, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.” Make sure the employee has contact information for the appropriate person at the company who can answer questions that might come up later, and if there is anything that can sincerely be said that was positive about the employee’s work, do so.