7 Tips for Terminating an Employee – with Fairness & Respect

Serious businessman at meeting

Terminating an employee is a very difficult task that should be well-prepared for in advance. There is much to consider before sitting down to have this delicate discussion with an employee. You need to think about the employee’s self-esteem and the effect it’ll have on their career as well as how it will affect your remaining employees.

When it’s time to let a team member go, your goal is to help all parties involved leave the situation feeling that the process was fair and respectful. Follow these 7 tips to achieve your objective and make this complex process a bit easier:

1) Do your due diligence

An employee who’s being let go shouldn’t feel that it’s a complete surprise. Unless it’s an unexpected situation in which you must act quickly, you should have already completed your due diligence before letting an employee go. That may include having had one-on-one meetings with the employee to discuss performance or behavior and any necessary documentation.

2) Get your house in order

Make sure you practice. Know exactly what you’ll say and how you’ll handle different scenarios. Ensure you have all paperwork ready to go like information on unemployment benefits, severance, or their last paycheck. Don’t forget to include any documentation that the employee may ask for in objection to your reasoning. Lastly, ensure terminated employees don’t leave with company property and that they no longer have access to company information of any kind.

3) Don’t go in alone

It’s generally best to have another manager or an HR professional in the room with you during this sensitive situation. It’s impossible to predict how someone will react and it can be helpful to have another trusted colleague in the room to help you navigate the circumstances. This can also help limit your liability when you’re terminating an employee.

4) Keep it private & swift

Nobody wants to be humiliated in front of their peers and colleagues. Choose the right time and the right place and prevent the situation from affecting other employees when it occurs. It also allows the employee to leave with their dignity intact.

5) Be empathetic but firm

You definitely don’t want an employee to think your decision isn’t final. But, it’s important that all parties involved feel they’ve ended things in a fair and respectful manner. Refrain from giving the employee a long list of failures – you don’t want to provoke resentment or an argument.The employee may ask questions, vent, or even shed some tears. So, simply listen and repeat a clear and concise message.

6) Give yourself time

Make sure you give yourself at least 15 minutes before and after the meeting.You want to ensure you feel relaxed and ready with a clear, concise message. Giving yourself time after the meeting can also help you prepare for how you’ll answer questions from your remaining employees.

7) Consider your remaining employees’ feelings

Terminating an employee has an affect on your other employees too. Regardless of how individual employees feel about the situation, you’ll want to ensure your team’s environment doesn’t turn into a rumor mill and that employee moral doesn’t take a nosedive. Be prepared to let your team know and answer questions but avoid going into details about the private situation.

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