How to Terminate an Employee Gracefully

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July 22, 2016

Terminating, or firing, an employee is never easy, but unfortunately it’s an essential part of business. Maybe your worker is consistently late, underperforms, lacks communication skills, or talks inappropriately about others. Whatever the reason, it’s time for you to have the hard conversation, and you’re nervous. But before you hit the panic button, take a deep breath and follow these five simple tips to terminate an employee as gracefully as possible.

1. Plan ahead.

Prepare (even rehearse!) what you’re going to say before you call the employee into your office. Nervousness can make you talk—a lot. And all that extra talk may make you sound indecisive and leave room for too many questions. So plan the “you’re fired” speech before the meeting and keep it brief. “I’m sorry, we’re letting you go,” is often all that’s needed.

Also gather documentation like recent performance reviews and previous disciplinary actions. Odds are the employee has received warnings or other professional discipline before now—at least he/she should have if you’re at the point of termination.

2. Be clear and concise.

Set up crystal clear expectations about the terms of the firing. Inform him/her about the exact last day of work (it’s often that very moment) and explain any payout of benefits, severance pay, or vacation time. Advise the employee on how and when to collect personal belongings. Explaining the details now can avoid an awkward situation later.

3. Use discretion.

Avoid talking about the termination beyond those who must be involved. Gossip spreads quickly, and the last thing you want is an employee finding out they’re being let go through the office grapevine. Not only does that create an uncomfortable working environment, it’s also unfair to the employee who deserves to be terminated respectfully.

4. Don’t negotiate or argue.

If you’ve done your job right, the employee should know why they are being fired without a detailed explanation. Company discipline, probation, complaints, and performance reviews give the employee ample opportunity to correct any issues. That also takes the pressure off of you when it comes to termination—all of the documentation should be in place. So don’t negotiate or argue the reasoning, just stand firm with your decision.

5. Show compassion.

No matter what business you’re in, we’re all humans. Being fired is an emotional experience, despite the circumstances. You’re delivering news that will affect another person’s future, income, family, and self-confidence. Respond to them as a person and not just an employee. Regardless of what they did or did not do, they are a human losing their job. A little compassion can go a long way to help a person take in the news and move on.

Terminating an employee is one of the toughest—yet necessary—tasks in business. When you hire employees through That’s Good HR, we take the hard conversations, like terminations, off of your plate. We gracefully handle letting employees go, all of the paperwork that goes along with it, and the final employee communications for you.

Ready to let us tackle some of your biggest employment challenges? Get in touch with our seasoned sales team today.