Fair Firing: How to Let an Employee Go


Firing an employee is one of the most unpleasant parts of being a leader in any industry—particularly in small business, where teams tend to be tight-knit. It’s a decision that triggers an emotional reaction—you’re never quite sure how someone will take the news, or what the consequence might be.
Although the process is never easy, the way you approach letting someone go can make it less painful for both you and the employee in question. Here are four tips to help you fire an employee fairly.

Tip #1: Have a Process in Place

When it comes time to let an employee go, it should never be a surprise. Your employee handbook should clearly set forth the rules and guidelines you expect each employee to adhere to. When an employee breaks a rule or fails to meet a set expectation, be sure to issue a formal warning documented in writing. When issuing the warning, clearly state what the consequences will be if changes aren’t made. Providing employees with clear guidance as to what you expect, and a clear process of warnings and opportunities to improve, will give them the best possible chance of shaping up before you ship them out.

Tip #2: Work out the Details in Advance

Before having a discussion with your employee, make sure to nail down all of the details of their departure: when you’d like them to leave, what property they need to return, what passwords, security codes, and keys need to be changed, etc. Also make sure to have all of the documentation of events leading up to the firing decision on hand during the discussion in case the employee disputes any of your claims.

Tip #3: Have a Witness

In many cases, especially if you anticipate resistance from your staff member, having a witness on hand during the firing discussion is a good idea. That way, you’ll have a third party to corroborate your story if the fired employee accuses you of any misconduct.

Tip #4: Do It Quickly

When you’ve made the decision to let an employee go, don’t drag out the process. Once the details are ironed out, schedule a chat with the staff member expediently so you can both move on.

The Bottom Line

Every part of the firing process should be conducted with this thought in mind: Treat your employee as you would want to be treated if you were in his or her shoes. Be as fair as possible, but also be firm once you’ve made your final decision.

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