How to Fire an Employee

Nov 3, 2011

It’s a miserable fact of being manager, sometimes you have to fire employees.

Jeff Haden, former manager of a 250-employee book plant, offered these seven suggestions for making the bad situation a little less terrible in a recent “Owner’s Manual” column on BNET.

1. Be sure.

“The heat of the moment can cause you to make a snap decision that is neither correct nor fair,” Haden wrote. “Even if you have a zero-tolerance policy for certain behaviors, take a few minutes to make sure the employee’s action truly falls within the parameters of that policy.”

2. Check the trail.

“Identify sub-par performance, provide additional training or resources, set targets and time lines for performance improvement, follow up when progress is lacking-and document each step in writing,” Haden wrote. “Documentation not only protects your company, it also helps ensure the employee was given every chance to succeed.”

3. Line everything up.

“The time period between when you say, ‘You’re fired,’ and when the employee actually leaves the building is incredibly awkward for everyone,” Haden wrote. “Make it easier by knowing every detail in the process so it can go as smoothly as possible.”

4. Get a witness.

“Having someone else in the room eliminates the risk of the employee later claiming you said things you did not,” Haden wrote. “At the same time, a witness makes an awkward situation even more awkward; the employee might feel the second person is in the room simply to provide protection or backup if he gets angry. That’s a little insulting…but in the end your job is to protect your company, so bring in a witness.”

5. Know what you will say.

“The less you say the more dignity the employee retains,” Haden wrote. “Stick to the point and be professional. And don’t feel bad for not mincing words-at this point the employee has almost no interest in hearing you ramble on anyway.”

6. Don’t argue.

“No matter what, don’t let yourself get sucked into an argument,” Haden wrote. “If you’re sure of the decision and have documentation to back it up, there is no argument.”

7. Don’t offer to help when you can’t.

“If you are firing an employee for cause there are very few ways you can help them get another job,” Haden wrote. “So don’t toss out well-meaning platitudes like, ‘If there’s anything I can do, just let me know…’ There really isn’t.”

To read the complete BNET article, click here.