10 Tips on Terminating an Employee and Minimizing Negative Backlash

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In my various positions in Human Resources and Diversity and Inclusion, I have been faced with the tough decision to let employees go. When your team is not functioning at its optimal potential, sometimes there’s a particular individual who is responsible for a majority of the problems. In order to keep your company focused and moving in the right direction, that employee may need to be relieved of their duties. Here are some tips that will help with the process of firing someone in the most civil and effective way:

  1. Make sure to give the employee ample time and opportunity to fix mistakes before giving them the boot. This allows you to see if the person really just flubbed up a couple of times or if they are genuinely bad at their job. Giving them the time makes it so you are not the one firing them. They are firing themselves by consistently messing up.
  2. Remember, most people’s jobs are the center of their universe. Be very careful to consider all of the facts before firing somebody. Never underestimate how impactful it is to the individual and their family. Think long and hard before you let someone go. Try using corrective discipline over punitive actions, if you haven’t already done so, before administering industrial capital punishment.
  3. This one is a no-brainer, but do not fire someone for personal reasons. This is illegal. Enough said.
  4. How long do they stay? If they are getting fired for violation of rules or misconduct, of course they have to go immediately. But, what if they are being terminated for other reasons? You should try to find a date that works for both of you. However, it should not be longer than two weeks after the initial conversation. Unless, according to policy, they can go on vacation or sick leave until it is mutually convenient. The key is they should be away from the workplace after two weeks.
  5. Should they train their replacement??? No. Bad plan. Allowing the terminated employee to train their replacement should not be done. I can’t think of a time when this would be an acceptable policy, but if you do it, you should be aware and ready for the negative implications it may cause.
  6. Do it at the end of the day, unless you don’t want them to do any work that day. If so, you can fire them in the morning, but they would need to leave directly.
  7. Don’t fire on Friday. They need to have the benefit of being able to contact you if they have things they want to discuss or better understand. Unless you are ready to be available to them on Saturday and Sunday, then a Friday fire is okay.
  8. Be civil. Be nice. “I’ve reviewed this situation and I think it is best for both you and the company that we do not continue this relationship.” Saying, “pack your s_ _ _” is not a good idea. A lot of the time, when you talk to an employee, they will agree that the fit was not ideal.
  9. What if they go nuts? What if they rant and rave all over your office? Sit in silence. Let them go through what they are feeling. After all, they are losing a job. They will usually calm down if you give them a few minutes. If matters get absolutely out of control, call for some help.
  10. Don’t feel bad. Remember, as long as you did your due diligence prior to let them go, they fired themselves.

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