How to Fire Someone: The Do’s and Don’ts

Firing someone is never an easy task. It can be stressful, emotional, and downright messy. But sometimes, it’s necessary.

There are many reasons for laying off an employee, with poor work performance being the most usual one. If you’re thinking about firing someone, there are a few things you should consider.

Read on to find out how to fire someone and learn some tips for making the process easier for everyone involved.

Key Points

  • How to Fire Someone Nicely
  • Have a Clear Reason for Firing Someone
  • What to Avoid When Terminating an Employee
  • Key Takeaways
  • FAQ

How to Fire Someone Nicely

Although there’s no foolproof script for terminating an employee, there is a way to make the experience as polite and as painless for your employee as it could be.

Here are the do’s of firing someone, so you can learn how to fire someone legally and what to say and do when terminating an employee.

Have a Clear Reason for Firing Someone

Whether it’s because of poor performance, low productivity, disruptive behavior, or something else, ensure you have a clear and concise explanation for why the termination is happening.

Also, be aware of the illegal reasons to fire someone, as they can lead to discrimination lawsuits. So, no one should fire their employees for their race, religion, nationality, gender, pregnancy, disability, or age.

Give the Employee a Chance to Improve

If the person is generally a good performer but has been through a tough time recently, consider giving them a warning or performance improvement plan before resorting to termination. Maybe they’ll get back on track so you can avoid firing them altogether.

Coordinate with the HR Department

Whenever you’re not sure how to handle the firing or if there are any legal implications, it’s always best to consult with HR. They’ll walk you through the process and ensure everything is done correctly and by the book. Wrongful termination lawsuits can cost you a pretty penny. In most cases, the settlement award is between $5,000 and $20,000.

Have a Witness Present

When you deliver the news to an employee, it’s always best to have someone else (usually someone from the HR department) in the room as a witness. You’ll do this to prevent false accusations of misconduct or unfair treatment.

Choose When and Where to Fire an Employee 

You should avoid firing someone on the spot or in front of other employees, as it’ll only make the situation worse. You may not always know how to tell someone they are fired, but you should always schedule a meeting with an employee and deliver the news in a private setting.

Document Everything

Throughout the process of firing someone, it’s essential to document everything: performance reviews, warnings, conversations, and anything else that pertains to the situation. Documentation will help you stay organized and make it easier to defend your decision if there is any legal backlash.

Be Respectful

Even though you may be angry or upset, you must remain respectful throughout the process. Name-calling, personal attacks, and anything else that could be considered hostile doesn’t have a place in business settings. Keep your emotions in check and treat the other person with dignity and respect.

Listen to What the Employee Has to Say 

Give the employee a chance to speak their mind and share their side of the story. That way, you’ll gain more insight into the situation and perhaps even change your mind about firing them. It’s essential to be open-minded.

Provide a Reference Letter

If the employee leaves on good terms, consider providing a reference letter. It will certainly help them find a new job faster.

Get Back the Company Material 

Make sure to collect any company property that was issued to the employee. Retrieve any laptops, phones, credit cards, keys, key cards, and anything else that belongs to the company. You don’t want them to have access to company resources after they’ve been fired.

End the Meeting on a Good Note

Even though the meeting may not have gone the way the employee wanted, you should end it on a positive note. If you don’t know what to say when you fire someone, you can’t go wrong with a simple “Thank you for your time” and letting them know that you appreciate their work up until now.

Have Someone Escort the Employee Out 

Once you’ve delivered the news, it’s time to have someone escort the employee out of the building for security purposes. The HR department will usually handle this.

Follow Up

You can do this via email or phone. Check up on your former employee to see how they’re doing and offer any assistance or resources they may need during this difficult time. Not many higher-ups do this, but if you do it, it will paint you as a nice person who cares about their former employees.

What to Avoid When Terminating an Employee

Now that you know how to fire an employee in the most polite way possible, you must also learn what not to do during and after employee termination.

⊗ Don’t Fire an Employee in Front of Other Employees 

Firing an employee is a private matter and should be done in a private setting. Doing it in front of other employees will only embarrass and humiliate the person. It won’t benefit you either. 

⊗ Don’t Get Physical

Under no circumstances should you get physical with the employee, regardless of how angry you or they are. It will only worsen the situation and could lead to legal action against you.

⊗ Don’t Threaten the Employee

Maybe the employee is angry and starts shouting at you. Or they want to throw a punch. Despite knowing it’s against the rules, you may wish to retaliate somehow, or at least threaten to do so. However, threatening the employee with violence or retaliation is never acceptable.

⊗ Don’t Fire Someone Over Email, Text, or Phone

Is it illegal to fire someone over the phone? No, but it’s highly unprofessional and plain rude. If possible, it’s best to deliver the news in person. This shows that you’re taking the situation seriously and respect the employee enough to talk to them face-to-face.

⊗ Don’t Fire Someone Before a Holiday or on Friday Afternoon 

Let’s face it; there’s no such thing as the best day to fire someone. That said, you should still avoid firing someone before a holiday or on a Friday afternoon. Not only will this give them little time to process the news, but it will also undoubtedly ruin their holiday or weekend.

⊗ Don’t Fire an Employee on Leave 

Firing an employee who is on leave, such as sick, maternity, or paternity leave, is not only heartless but also illegal in many cases. This is a difficult and emotional time for the person, and they shouldn’t have to deal with losing their job on top of everything else.

⊗ Don’t Humiliate the Employee

Terminating an employee is hard enough without adding insult to injury. There’s never a time when it’s acceptable to humiliate or belittle your employee.

⊗ Don’t Give False Hope

The phrases you’ll use for firing an employee must be straightforward. If you’re firm in your decision, you must be honest with the employee from the start. Please don’t give them false hope or make promises you can’t keep.

⊗ Don’t Take It Personally

No one likes a bearer of bad news, and employee termination is undoubtedly bad news and stressful for all parties involved. However, remember that it’s not personal. It’s a business decision and should be treated as such.

⊗ Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Help 

If you’re struggling to deal with the situation, don’t be afraid to seek help from a professional (a therapist, counselor, or even your HR department). They can offer support and guidance on how to handle the situation best, whether deciding how to terminate an employee or dealing with the consequences of such action.

⊗ Don’t Badmouth the Employee 

After terminating an employee, you should talk to the rest of their team. Let them know what happened and why the decision was made. Under no circumstances should you badmouth the employee or pass judgment on their character. If you behave that way, it can only damage morale and make the situation more difficult for everyone involved.

Key Takeaways:

  • Be physically and emotionally ready to fire an employee and prepare all the documents.
  • Be polite and straightforward to avoid confusion.
  • Offer a reference letter.
  • Don’t humiliate the employee when firing them, and don’t give them false hope.
  • Don’t fire someone over a text, phone, or email, before a holiday or on Friday afternoon.
  • Don’t fire an employee who is on leave.
  • Offer and seek help.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you fire a rude employee?

If you have an employee who is rude to customers, colleagues, or management, it’s crucial to take action. First, talk to the employee about their behavior and give them a chance to improve and resolve the issue. If the problem persists, you may need to take disciplinary action. As with any challenging situation, staying calm and professional is essential.

How do I fire my friend at work?

This can be incredibly difficult to navigate, and you may wonder what to say when firing someone who’s also your friend. However, you should be clear about why you’re firing them and prepared to handle any fallout from the situation. Your friend may be hurt and angry, and they may try to lash out at you. But, if you’re confident in your decision and handle the situation gracefully, you should be able to get through it.

Can you be fired without a warning?

While receiving a warning before being let go from a job is preferable, firing an employee without warning isn’t rare or illegal. These situations fall into two categories: problems with job performance or issues related to conduct.

In the case of poor job performance, an employer may feel that giving a warning would simply prolong the inevitable. As for conduct, certain behaviors can cause an employer to lose confidence in an employee’s ability to do their job effectively. Things like stealing, fighting, or using drugs on the job would all fall into this category.

What evidence do you need to fire someone?

In most cases, employers must have a good reason to fire an employee. For example, if an employee is not meeting performance expectations or has violated company policies, there may be grounds for termination.

However, employers should be careful when deciding how to fire someone, as there may be legal consequences of wrongful termination.