June 18

How To Fire an Employee


Firing is never easy — there is definitely a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Here’s some advice from HR Annie on the best way to fire an employee.

As a manager, you need to have awkward conversations with your staff every now and then, like the personal hygiene conversation. But there is one conversation that is always approached with hesitation — firing an employee. There is a lot to consider before letting someone go and it’s important to make sure you are in accordance with the law when you fire someone. We talked to our friend Cindy Fetty from HR Annie Consulting — a Human Resources consulting firm based in Portland, OR — about the best way to fire an employee so that you and the employee can go separate ways as smoothly, professionally and legally as possible.

Unless an employee has done something illegal or unsafe, firing someone should never be a rash decision. The best way to fire someone is to first give them warning and opportunity. Cindy suggests that a prior conversation should occur, so the employee understands that termination is a possibility if things continue as they are.

“Employees should not be surprised by being terminated, meaning there should always be prior communication and documentation leading up to a termination,” advises Cindy. “If conversations were verbal, managers should still document they occurred. Employees, in most circumstances, should be given an opportunity to succeed.” So, before you fire an employee, you should at least have a conversation where a warning is given. This allows the employee to become aware of what is expected and make necessary changes. If they don’t, then it validates your decision to let them go.

 the best way to fire an employee is to do it as gracefully and humanely as possible.

If things have not changed and you have given proper warning and documentation, then you can begin the process of letting your employee go. Cindy states, “If termination is inevitable, make sure to plan as much ahead of time as possible to ensure no unnecessary liabilities are present, and that the termination can be as graceful and humane as possible.”

She also gave us some advice on important steps to take before firing an employee including: choose a proper time and location, collect documentation (termination letter, severance letter), prepare any final paychecks, create an exit plan for the employee leaving the premises and finally, prepare a message for the team and a communication channel for those who have questions. Thinking and planning ahead will allow you to take control of the meeting and prepare for any unexpected behavior.

As Cindy states, the best way to fire an employee is to do it as gracefully and humanely as possible. Firing someone isn’t a pleasant conversation, but there are ways in which you can make it easier and lighter for the employee being let go. Cindy’s advice for keeping the termination respectful is to, “Do what you can to quickly explain the reason for the termination.” She adds, “but also help the employee understand what they can expect — what will the rest of the team be told, what can they say to a prospective new employer, and ways to exit them from the company without making them feel like the center of attention.” Having a termination conversation is hard, but it can be even harder and confusing for the employee. It’s best to address the issue with a little empathy and help them understand what it means to be fired and how they can move forward.

As a manager you’ll likely fire an employee at some point or another, so learning how to fire an employee professionally is an important step. Cindy’s wisdom shows us that the best way to fire an employee requires a little precaution, a little preparation and a little compassion. While firing an employee is not a fun task for anyone, it can be done in a respectable way that hopefully won’t burn any bridges.


About the author


Ashley McNally likes to cook, loves to bake, and is always dreaming of her next meal. With over 13 years of experience working in various roles within a restaurant — McNally has made a home in hospitality.


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