How To Fire an Employee Gracefully

Firing Employees is a Critical Decision for Leaders

You’ve coached, trained, supported, and fostered an environment that should be conducive for success for anyone at your office. After much conversation, performance planning, and documented discussions, you’ve finally made the decision to release an employee. Most leaders begin to think about how this will affect the employee – will they be ok? Will this cause financial hardship and undue strain on the employee and his or her family? Am I doing the right thing? Many leaders think this way, which is totally understandable. Leaders are human, after all! This critical decision, though difficult for most to make, is made easier when a few key steps are taken.
Are the Roles and Responsibilities of the Job Perfectly Clear?
One of the greatest shortcomings of many leaders of industry is an inability to clearly articulate the roles and responsibilities of the job at hand. An employee should rarely be surprised when they are facing termination. As long as the job requirements are spelled out in a clear manner, there should be little room for confusion on behalf of the employee. By clearly defining the demands of the job, leaders will face a much easier task when they are forced to release an employee.
Document, Document, Document
When faced with the prospect of firing an employee, there are typically two main reasons. The first situation revolves around an employee who has violated a policy of the company. The second correlates to a lack of performance against company established metrics. The first situation is much more cut and dry, and typically requires enough documentation to satisfy the legal requirements for termination. The second situation isn’t as simple. Performance can take on many forms, and an employee who feels that they are performing strongly in one area may be apt to neglect another. Documentation of specific performance issues will allow for little discussion when the time comes to issue disciplinary action – or even terminate. This makes the process of releasing an employee easier, and allows for a more graceful interaction between leader and employee.

Be Respectful, But Don’t Drag it Out

Firing an employee is a situation that any leader will inevitably have to face. That said, it doesn’t make it easier on the person being fired when you begin the conversation with, “I know this is a difficult thing to have to deal with, and I’m sorry it has come to this, but…” Don’t apologize, don’t shift blame, and don’t neglect the fact that this employee has underperformed and has not lived up to the contract between employer and employee that was established during the hiring and onboarding phase. Firing an employee takes a few short minutes, but the method and manner in which it is done can have a lasting impact. In fact, employees will occasionally fight the firing move, but being positive and unapologetic can typically take the interaction from hostile to graceful. As a leader, you’ll have to fire people. Understanding that preparation, documentation, and proper communication are the keys to a successful termination will go a long way to making this unfortunate activity a more graceful interaction.