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Time to Let Go? 15 Expert Tips for Firing Employees

Brittney Morgan
Brittney Morgan

Letting go of a problem employee is definitely easier said than done.

Before you can fire someone, you need to make sure you have everything in order and are going about it in the right way. Firing someone too hastily or without taking the proper steps can lead to an uncomfortable situation, or even legal issues that could do major damage to your business.

Business News Daily asked human resources experts and professionals for their best advice on properly firing employees. These 15 tips should make the process a little bit easier.  

Give the employee the opportunity to improve (or leave) first.

"Realizing that you've made a bad hire, or that the candidate you had high hopes for is less-than-enthused with their current position, is tough — especially for small businesses. Even though it may seem easier to just cross your fingers and hope it gets better, the truth is that you need to take control of the situation. The best thing to do is have a conversation with this individual, and express your concerns. Give them the opportunity to realize on their own that perhaps this isn't the best fit. In some instances, after just that conversation the employee may quit on their own." – ]

Get everything in order beforehand.

"Practice what you plan to say to the employee and have all the required documentation in order so that you can make the process as smooth as possible. If you're afraid that your nerves will get in the way, jot down a few talking points. At a minimum, you'll need to explain the process to the employee about leaving the building, returning company-owned items, how long benefits will continue, etc." – Amanda Haddaway, human resources consultant and trainer

Choose a proper time and place.

"Plan the date, time and place — I prefer earlier in the week, [and] never on Friday. [Do it] during lunch or at another time when business impacts are minimized. Conference rooms are good places." – Greg Syzmanski, director of human resources, Geonerco Management

Don't rush into the meeting.

"Make sure that you have at least 15 minutes before the meeting to relax and get clear about your objective." – Jennifer Martin, business coach, Zest Business Consulting

Focus on the facts (and the law).

"When firing an employee you need to focus on specific facts and again not attack the employee as a person. You also need to follow laws specific for your region for notice and in some instances severance pay." – Chantal Bechervaise, author and publisher, Take It Personel-ly

Protect your business.

"Document, document, document. Without proper documentation of company rules, position requirements [and] expectations, infractions and disciplinary policies, you will lose most lawsuits." – Aaron Ziff, vice president, International Strategy and Consulting

Don't go it alone.

"Don't fire an employee alone. As we stated above, a firing is an emotional and sensitive situation, and so you never know how someone will react. It would be wise to have an HR representative present during the meeting. If you don't have dedicated HR staff, just make sure you have someone else you trust in the room with you when the firing takes place." – Lisa Brown Morton, CEO, Nonprofit HR

It shouldn't be a surprise.

"A termination should never come as a surprise to an employee. The employee should have been receiving constant and real-time feedback from management all along. When an employee is taken off-guard and doesn't know and expect that termination is imminent, is when lawsuits arise." –Joe Campagna, owner, My Virtual HR Director

Be consistent.

"Be sure your decision to fire is consistent with your past behavior and practices. Firing Bob today for being late to work three times while you did not fire Carol for the same behavior is a red flag." – David Lewis, president and CEO, OperationsInc

Keep it short.

"Firing someone is never pleasant, regardless of the reason. I always recommend to be resolute with your decision, clear with your reasons, and brief with your interaction." – Steve Smith, business coach and manager, Mentors Guild

Don't make up excuses.

"It's OK to fire someone who simply doesn't fit in with your organization, and who never should have been hired in the first place. Don't get sucked into trying to build a case on nonexistent performance issues. Be honest. This employment relationship isn't working for any of the parties involved, and it's best to end it sooner rather than later." – Richard Hadden, employee engagement consultant, Contented Cow Partners

Keep it private.

"If you do need to fire the employee, allow the person to leave with dignity. Don't make the employee empty out his or her desk in front of colleagues, for example. Arrange for after-hours or Saturday packing." – Leigh Steere, co-founder, Managing People Better

Have someone escort the employee out.

"Have someone with them while they pack their personal items, and then have that person collect keys, personnel ID card and escort them out of the building." –Kathi Elster, executive coach and co-owner, K Squared Enterprises

Make sure it's them, not you.

"Do a self-assessment. If you've gotten to the point of having to fire someone, it's a great time to evaluate your hiring, supporting and developing processes. Is this a pattern you're seeing? If so, you need to address the root causes of your talent management issues." – Rory Cohen, executive coach and training & development consultant, David Couper Consulting

When it comes to layoffs, give employees time.

"If you know that you will be having layoffs in three months, let your employees know after a month and give them the two months as severance. If you need key people to stay for a specific time, give them a bonus reward for continuing to produce until a set time." – Tracy Vistine, lead recruiter, Messina Group

Image Credit: durantelallera/Shutterstock
Brittney Morgan
Brittney Morgan
Business News Daily Staff
Brittney Q. Morgan is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor, as well as a graduate of Drew University, where she majored in History. Her work can be found all across the web at Apartment Therapy, HuffPost, and more. You can also find her on Twitter at @brittneyplz.