Don't Do These When Firing An Employee

Don't Do These When Firing An Employee
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Nobody wants to fire an employee but sometimes it's the only way. Learn what not to do when firing an employee.

• Business: Helpful Information • Business: How-To • Business: Small Business • Business: Tips & Tricks

I can't imagine that any normal human being enjoys the process of firing an employee any more than any normal human being enjoys being fired. Sometimes their work is complete and there just isn't anything left for them to do a to your company and they need to be downsized. Other times it's their performance that leads up to their dismissal.

Regardless of the reason or what you want to call it, there are right ways to let somebody go and wrong ways. Follow along with our list of top things not to do when firing somebody.

Don't Fire Them Remotely

While there are circumstances where you'll have no choice to fire somebody over the phone, it's generally a no-no. The exception might be for a remote employee who works from home, far away from your office. You're not going to hop on a plane and fly for hours to fire somebody and you're not going to fly them in for that either.

Beyond that, firing should be done face to face. Never fire anyone via email, text messages, voice mails, or even postal mail. It's just not appropriate to do that. Be honest with them and explain the reason they'll no longer be employed with the company. Remember, they're human too and deserve your honesty and face time.

Don't Go Alone

Never, ever fire an employee on your own. If you do, everything that happened will be your word against theirs if legal issues arise. Instead, bring a human resources representative into the firing as well. If you're company doesn't have an HR rep, bringing another employee in will do. A second person will not only be a good witness, they can also help ease the tension in the room.

Don't Use Hired Help

If you're in a larger company there is likely a process in how a firing gets handled. It's likely done by a human resources representative along with a department manager. But in a small company that process may not exist.

In either case, don't dodge responsibility. If you're the person who should be doing the firing then suck it up and get the job of firing done yourself. Don't delegate this type of work if it's something that should be done by you.

Don't Go In Blind

Never start the process of firing someone blindly. Have everything documented and be sure to bring those notes to the meeting. Write up a checklist of everything you need to discuss and everything that needs to happen during the meeting. This will keep you on track and organized during this stressful time.

Don't Forget Their Access

When you're about to fire someone, you should call them in for a private meeting (with another employee present) and also have any existing access they have shut down. This would include access to electronic locks in the office, computer networks and systems, company credit cards, and so on.

When people are fired, especially when they don't see it coming, they're not always thinking properly. We've all heard the stories about a rogue employee who got fired and took down the computer network because their access wasn't shut off.

Don't Give False Hope

When you've finally made the decision to fire someone you know it's final and there's no coming back for that person. It's important to make sure they know this decision is final as well. It's not fair to the ex-employee to think that there is something they can do to get their job back.

Be kind and respect them as a fellow human, but be straightforward and make sure they understand that this decision is final.

Don't Fire Without Warning

Want to really anger somebody? Boot them out the door without any warning what-so-ever. Instead, try to determine what the issues are and how to resolve them. Maybe it's a miscommunication, health problem, or family situation that's interfering with their work.

You might be able to turn the situation around, help out a fellow human being in the process, and get things back on track. When doing this, always document the process along the way. Write down the problems, what is discussed, and the solutions you'll be trying.

Of course, the exception to this rule would be an employee doing something very extreme that would make firing without a warning okay. But that's going to be the rare exception.

Don't Let Them Take Stuff

Don't let the person you are firing leave with any company property. It might be far more difficult to get those items back later on so why give yourself that type of headache. Make sure they turn in any office keys, ID cards, phones, computer equipment, and other company owned supplies.

If they have company owned items that are at their house, be sure document everything they have and to come up with a written agreement of when and how those items will be returned if possible.

Don't Over Talk

While you should certainly take the time to explain the reasons the person is being fire, you don't need to over do it. Briefly cover the documented reasons for them being let go but don't relive every gory detail of the issues they've had. All that does is make them feel worse as it adds insult to injury.

Don't End On A Low Note

Employment termination will never be fun but it can certainly be done without things getting nasty. Keep it friendly and try to even suggest some other lines of work (not at your company) that this worker may be better suited for. Point out some of their strengths rather than only focusing on the issues you've had with them.

Try not to burn any bridges and end the conversation on a positive note. Always thank them for their time and contributions and wish them luck on their future endeavours. Depending on the reason for them being fired, you might even offer to provide them with a reference if possible.


Firing someone isn't a fun time for anyone involved in the process. You need to have good documentation so you're legally covered, have respect for the person you are letting go, and be honest with them.

Be supportive but direct and remember that this experience will get around your office in one way or another so how you handle yourself here matters to other coworkers who are still employed with you. Those are the same coworkers who may have a sudden fear of losing their jobs and could use some reassurance about their own employment.