How to fire someone

I have to fire an employee in the next week or two, and I’m dreading delivering the news. The idea of sitting across from someone and giving them such rough news has me anxious and losing sleep.

I’ve been fired myself once or twice over the years (who hasn’t, I guess?) and I remember feeling shocked and powerless.

How can I fire this person nicely? Is that even possible?

The (Reluctant) Terminator

Fired, canned, laid off, let go, terminated… There’s a reason why there are so many euphemisms for losing your job, and it’s because it’s often too difficult to tell it like it is.

As most leaders know, having to fire someone on your team is no walk in the park. It’s tough to deliver such gut-punching news!

That being said, there are certain steps you can take to make sure that when you do fire a direct report, you do so in the kindest way possible.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty, I’d advise you to take the time to go over your relationship with the employee in question. Run through this short list to make sure you’ve done everything you can for this person to be successful :

  • First, note how many times you met with this employee one-on-one. Meeting regularly with each person on your team ensures personal attention, and opens up discussions on how they should be approaching their work going forward.
  • Second, think about the feedback you delivered. Retrace your leadership steps: Did you deliver enough feedback? Did you orient them when they were veering off course? Did you give this employee a real chance to learn and improve?
  • Third, check your transparency. A firing sometimes occurs because of circumstances that are completely out of our control. Budget cuts, downsizing, and mergers are all commonplace. In these instances, the firing still shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. When rumblings from on-high suggest a major shift in personnel, it’s time to calmly inform the team.

Going through this list covers you in several ways. 1) You can learn from some personal failures and improve, and 2) If the direct report contests the termination, you can point to several moments when you tried to help.

In terms of other preparation, you should most certainly consult with your HR. Every country and state has varying laws when it comes to termination (although it’s important to note that terminating someone for their gender, ethnicity, or sexual preferences will deservedly land you with a lawsuit almost everywhere.)

Get clear on the reasoning behind the termination, even if you live in an ‘At will’ state where it’s not required by law. Then be sure to gather all pertinent information for the employee being terminated: dates of when benefits expire, information regarding their last paycheck (including any vacation days that may be reimbursed), what they should do with any company equipment, and finally who they can contact for more information.

They’ll likely be in a state of shock, so having all of this ready for them and laid out clearly will help immensely going forward.

Now onto the real meat of this question : What do you say to fire someone in the nicest way possible?

You’re going to hate this like poison, but.

Be direct. Keep it short.

There won’t be any magic words, metaphors, or tales of personal failure that will soften the blow of this jarring news. Instead, tell them outright and give them a moment to absorb. It is the greatest kindness you can offer. This way there’s no bargaining, negotiating, or (hopefully) any arguing.

“Derrick, the reason I’ve called you in here is because we’ve decided to let you go, and today will be your last day.”

Take a beat and allow them to take in the message. Then you go into the clear and concise information you gathered earlier. If it seems that they’re too overwhelmed to focus on the details, have a handout ready with all the necessary information.

Feel free to offer to walk with them to their desk to field any passing questions from coworkers, or, if it’s company policy, let them know security will be in attendance as they gather their things.

As a final act of kindness, offer your support in whatever way you feel comfortable. Letters of recommendation, networking contacts, and introductions to people in their industry are all viable ways you can help someone begin their job search.

No matter what, being fired is difficult news, so there’s no panacea to get everyone to walk out smiling. That being said, to fire someone nicely you first have to check in that you’ve done everything possible to make them successful, deliver the news simply, give them all the details concerning benefits and paychecks, and offer sincere support moving forward. You’ve got this. Good luck!

“Sling allows businesses to schedule smarter instead of harder.” – Bradley Knebel

12 Things You Should Never Do When Firing An Employee

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How to fire someone

Unfortunately, firing employees is a necessary part of business these days. Whether you manage a small restaurant, a franchised coffee shop, or a multi-national call center, you’re going to have to let someone go at some point during your career. Given this inevitability, you might be wondering what to do when it happens and exactly how to fire an employee.

In this article, the experts at Sling give you a how-to in reverse. We’ll reveal 12 things you should never do when firing an employee. From there, you can develop your own ideal method for terminating employment.

How To Fire An Employee: 12 Things You Should Never Do

1) Fire An Employee By Electronic Means

How to fire someone

Sure, the internet and electronic devices make communication extremely easy. But you should never use those tools to fire an employee. It’s impersonal, unprofessional, and can cause a lot of ill will (even animosity and anger) directed at your business.

That means no email, no IM, no voicemail, no social media…and definitely no phone call. If you’re going to fire an employee, do it face to face.

2) Surprise Them

One of the worst things you can do is fire an employee out of the blue without warning. Of course, this rule doesn’t apply in extreme situations (if someone becomes violent or steals company property, for example).

However, in regard to performance, you should regularly provide each and every employee with guidance and feedback. If you deem it necessary to fire an employee after they fail to meet the agreed-upon goals, at least they’ll have some idea why they’re being let go.

3) Fire The Employee By Yourself

You always want to think the best of your employees, but anyone can sue for any reason in today’s society. If you fire an employee by yourself and they decide to take you and the company to court, it becomes their word against yours.

That’s not a good position to be in. You can remove all liability by including a witness in the firing proceedings.

4) Compare The Employee To Someone Else

How to fire someone

You should base your decision to let someone go on whether or not they succeed in meeting your business’s standards, goals, and behavioral expectations. Never make the choice by comparing the employee in question with another team member.

Even if you’re using another employee as a benchmark of sorts, it’s never a good idea to make that known to your employee.

5) Explain The Firing

If you’ve documented the employee’s performance and provided plenty of opportunities for improvement, there should be no need to explain the termination in detail. Reviewing their failures will only make the process more difficult.

That said, it’s always beneficial to have a simple answer prepared in case the employee questions your decision. We suggest something like, “I am letting you go because your performance doesn’t meet the company standards.”

A short answer along those lines will keep you from getting involved in the next thing you should never do when firing an employee.

6) Get Into An Argument

Some employees will go quietly, while others will want to argue with you over any little point. Try your best not to get pulled into a confrontation with an employee you’re in the process of firing. And, by all means, avoid saying or doing anything that might inflame the situation if an employee does start to vent.

7) Give The Employee A Reason To Think The Decision Isn’t Final

Using weak language in the hopes of “sugar coating” the termination is a recipe for disaster. Be firm in the language you use so the employee doesn’t somehow think that your decision isn’t final.

Consider opening the meeting with the following words so the employee doesn’t get the wrong idea: “The purpose of this meeting is to inform you of my final decision to terminate your employment.”

8) Forget To Provide A Termination Letter

How to fire someone

Providing a termination letter that outlines the basic information of what you tell your employee face-to-face provides another layer of protection for yourself and the business. When you give the employee a termination letter, keep a copy for your own files and have the employee sign both copies before they go.

9) Treat The Employee Like A Criminal

There are differing opinions as to whether a terminated employee should be escorted to their desk and then off the premises by security. Whatever method you choose to use, treat your ex-employee with the respect they deserve. If you make too big a scene out of it, you will only embarrass the employee even further.

10) Allow The Employee To Leave With Company Property

The easiest way to keep employees from leaving with company property is to have them bring specific items with them to the termination meeting.

When you call the employee into your office, provide them with a list of things to bring (e.g., key, door pass, laptop, tablet, phone). That way, all they have to do after being let go is gather their personal belongings and leave.

11) Make The Employee Go Back Their Desk If They Are Upset

If an employee is upset after being fired, provide a way for their personal belongings to be sent to them at their home. If that doesn’t work, set up a time after work hours or on the weekend for them to come back and collect their things.

12) Allow the Employee To Access Your IT Systems

How to fire someone

The best way to avoid problems caused by a disgruntled employee is to rescind their access to company email, contact information, and shared drive space while they are in the termination meeting. Don’t forget to revoke access to other cloud-based computer systems, like Sling’s online scheduling feature.

Make The Process Your Own

Now that you know what not to do, you can tailor the termination process to your own particular style. Whatever you decide to include and exclude, the most important thing is to get comfortable with what you’re going to say and do.

The first few times you fire an employee, you may need to keep a checklist in front of you to stay on track. Soon, though, you’ll get the hang of it and it won’t be such a daunting task.

How to fire someone

Think about it like a no-fault divorce.

Think about it like a no-fault divorce.

Years ago I heard the statement, “Discharge is the capital punishment of organizational life.” What nonsense! If our metaphor for termination is capital punishment, no wonder organizations and their managers are so hesitant to fire a poor performer.

The appropriate metaphor? A no-fault divorce. As painful as divorce may be at the time, it allows two people to correct a mistake and move on to a more satisfying future. Handled well, termination works the same way. Here’s how to do it right.

Start by creating a transition plan. Choose the day and the time for the termi­nation deliberately. While experts disagree on when a firing should occur, all acknowledge the importance of having a rationale — a good business reason for your choice of time and day for dropping the ax. Doing it early in the day, early in the week, encourages the employee to get right to work on finding another job and reduces the chances that he’ll spend the weekend moping in a black hole or — worse — plotting revenge. Friday after­noons, on the other hand, often create the minimum amount of disruption to the rest of the staff.

Whatever your decision, put company interests first. For months you’ve probably put up with less-than-stellar performance in hopes that the situation would somehow correct itself. Now that the end is at hand, plan the transition so as to do the least damage to company and coworkers.

Check the succession plan for an internal candidate. You may want to start recruiting and wait to terminate until you’ve got a replace­ment ready to go. It may be in your best interests to send some subtle signals to clients and customers that there will be a staffing change soon.

Run it by a jury first. To make sure that you’re on solid ground in terminating an employee, imagine yourself defending your action in front of a jury. Assume that you are on the witness stand and the employee’s lawyer is attempting to prove that the firing was unjust, unfair, and vindictive.

You and Your Team

Hiring and Firing

Look for anything that could be twisted to suggest that the real reason for the termination is not the individual’s performance but rather a pretext or personal grudge. Isn’t that the real reason why you fired poor Smedley on his birthday, on the day before his tenth anniversary with the company, on the day before his pension vested, on the day his wife went into the hospital, on the day his mom died?

Take it step by step. Bungled terminations usually result from acting without thinking. Before you utter a word, write down the most important things you plan to say and then stick to your script. Recognize what you’re up to. This is not a counseling session. It’s the announce­ment that an irrevocable decision has been made to discharge the individual. Therefore:

1. Get right to the point. Skip the small talk. Start the termination meeting by saying, “Hello, John, sit down. I’ve got some bad news for you.” By announcing right from the start that there’s bad news ahead, you will rivet the individual’s attention on what’s coming next.

2. Break the bad news. State the reason for the termination in one or two short sentences and then tell the person directly that he or she has been terminated. Use the past tense. Say, “Your employment has been terminated,” not, “will be terminated.” For example: “As you know, Marie, we’ve talked several times about quality problems in your unit. Last month’s report indicated that your department still has the lowest quality index. We have decided that a change must be made, and as of today your employment has been terminated.”

When you’re telling someone they’re fired:

  • Don’t say, “I understand how you feel.” You don’t.
  • Don’t say, “I know that this hurts right now but later on you’ll realize that this is the best thing that could have happened.” It isn’t. It is a very bad thing.
  • Avoid justifications (“You should have known”).
  • Keep a box of Kleenex available.
  • Survival is a strong instinct — give it time to work.
  • Remember the Golden Rule.

3. Listen to what the employee has to say. There are several predictable reactions to the news that one has just lost his job. The most common are shock, denial, anger and grief. Listening to what the employee says will tell you which of the reactions he is experi­encing. Your response will be more effective if you know how he is taking the news.

How to fire someone

4. Cover everything essential. Be specific about what will happen next: pay, benefits, unused vacation time, references, outplacement, explanations to coworkers, ongoing projects, etc. This is one time when you can’t say, “I’ll get back to you on that.”

5. Wrap it up graciously. It’s usually best to schedule the termination meeting at the end of a work day so that the meeting takes place while coworkers are leav­ing. Close by thanking the individual for her contributions to the company. Walk with the now ex-employee back to her desk and wait while she collects any personal items. Go to the exit together, shake hands, wish her well, and part with both of your dignities intact.

Avoid misdirected compassion. Most managers I know are empathetic and considerate people. But when the need arises to terminate a subordinate their compassion is often misdirected. They become so concerned about the adverse impact on the employee to be discharged that they forget about all the people who manage to do their jobs and meet our expectations in spite of having as many personal problems and difficulties as the terminatee has.

Actually, when slackers and slouches are finally fired, managers usually discover that coworkers are relieved. Their peers are the ones who have had to work harder to make up for their shortcomings and slacking off. When terminations are well justified and professionally executed, the rest of the work group realizes that this is a good place to work.

But when obvious losers and occupational ne’er-do-wells are allowed to continue in their positions unchallenged, the message to the talented and energetic is that this is a place to avoid. Those who can find other jobs leave; the ones who stay are those who prefer an employer with low standards.

A final note: The most common problem with terminations is that they don’t happen as fast as they should. Once the decision has been made to pull the plug and start over, don’t dilly-dally in the misguided hope that — somehow — things may still work out. They never do. Remember: It’s not the people you fire who make your life miserable. It’s the ones you don’t.

How to fire someone

06 Jul Breaking Up is Hard to Do: How to Fire Someone (Nicely)

There are lots of perks to being the boss – you might make more money, avoid the least interesting work, and have better hours. But there’s one job that makes everyone else relieved they are not in charge, and that’s when it is time to terminate an employee. If you don’t know how to fire someone in the least painful way possible, these tips might make a tough situation a little more bearable.

How to fire someone

Consider these tips on how to fire someone (and be a little less miserable):

Timing is everything. You’re about to give someone terrible news. They will be angry, sad, shocked, embarrassed or all of the above.

[bctt tweet=”If you have to let someone go, do absolutely everything you can to preserve his or her dignity.” username=””]

Some advise taking a person off site at lunchtime, so that they can take the day without returning to the office if they wish. Others suggest a Friday so they have the weekend to absorb (although this can also mean two days of panicking and not having access to important people like human resources).

If you absolutely must walk a person off the premises per company policy, definitely arrange for an early morning or end of day meeting so they can collect their belongings in private.

Get trained. If you haven’t let someone go before, or it’s your first time at your current company, get help and learn how to fire someone in line with employee policy. Reach out to human resources for help, or even check with legal.

Your own boss is also a good contact, since they are likely to approve of your process if it matches their own. At the very least, understand the legal requirements of letting someone go (different states have different laws) and optimally, you will make an unpleasant conversation as painless as possible.

Stay on script. Plan ahead what you’re going to say. Anticipate the response – obviously you will get questions like when their last day will be, details of their severance package, etc. But also be ready for the most likely question “Why?” Which leads us to. . .

Avoid surprises. If the company has been going through a difficult financial time and layoffs are imminent, don’t mislead people by insisting that everyone’s job is secure. If you are terminating someone for a poor performance, you should have given performance reviews (see here our tips for how to do these well) that indicated they weren’t measuring up.

If there was no way for the person to anticipate the news, acknowledge it, but don’t apologize – “I know this news is unexpected and very difficult.”

Operate strictly on a need to know basis. If ever there was a time to avoid gossip, it’s now. Don’t tell anyone in advance who doesn’t need to know.

If your assistant manages your calendar, schedule this yourself and mark private, or simply tell him it’s a lunch meeting with a member of the team. On the other hand, there are likely people who do need to know – HR, for one, and perhaps the IT team if accounts need to be closed.

Even if you know how to fire someone, it’s never easy.

And it shouldn’t be. If you’ve gotten to the point where ending someone’s employment doesn’t make you feel a little bit awful, you need to take a hard look at yourself. It’s not supposed to be easy; it’s supposed to be a thoughtful decision and a sensitive process. But if you do it well, you can make someone’s awful day, a little more bearable.

The “right way” to fire an employee doesn’t exist — but we can all get closer to it by keeping these 6 things in mind.

How to fire someone

A few months ago, I fired someone.

Ugh. It was gut-wrenching. I’ve fired people before – but it doesn’t matter how many times you do it, it always feels downright terrible. This moment was especially tough, as it was someone who I’d believed in and genuinely enjoyed working with. Things just weren’t working out as planned.

To prepare for the difficult conversation, I asked a few mentors for advice. I also later posed the question to The Watercooler, our community of leaders in Know Your Team from all over the world, to learn how others handle letting someone go.

From over 1,000 CEOs, managers, and executives, I compiled six recommendations on how to handle firing someone with dignity, grace and respect:

Privacy, please.

Choose a conference room that’s away from the team, ideally that’s close to the exits. Or, if you’re a remote team, make sure you’re in a place that’s private when you make your Skype or Google Hangout call. Make sure your phone is turned off and door is closed so you’re not interrupted. And never ever do it in a public place, like a coffee shop.

The “optimal” time doesn’t exist.

Everyone has different opinions about whether you should let someone go on Friday end-of-day, or earlier in the week – but really, it’s moot. Once the decision has been made, it’s best to let the person go as fast as possible. There never is an “optimal” time to fire someone. Don’t let time or day or day of week become an excuse to delay. The longer you wait, the more your interactions with that person become disingenuous and uncomfortable in the days and hours leading up to you telling them they’re being let go.

Cut to the chase.

Don’t dawdle or make small talk. Your opening sentence should be delivered in 5 seconds or less. For example, one Watercooler member suggested you say, “Claire, I’m letting you go effective immediately.” Be clear, succinct, and direct. Nothing you can say will soften the blow so don’t try to sugar coat your message or ask about how a project is going, etc.

It’s a decision, not a conversation.

Don’t get drawn into an extensive conversation or argument – it’s a decision that’s been made, not something that’s up for debate. Make that clear. One Watercooler member suggested that after stating that you’re letting this person go, your second sentence should articulate terms (severance, impact to equity, etc), and your third sentence should indicate this is non-negotiable. Listen to their reaction, answer questions as you see fit, but try not to get pulled into defending your decision for hours on end.

This sucks for you, but sucks way worse for them.

Another Watercooler member cautioned that you may be tempted to offer comfort by saying something like, “This is a difficult decision” or “I really don’t want to do this.” But the last thing you want to do is indulge and pontificate on how you’re personally feeling. To be frank, the other person doesn’t care how difficult the decision was for you – you made it, regardless. And, if you really didn’t want to do it, you wouldn’t have. Of course it sucks for you, but that’s not for you to impose on the person you’re firing. Find someone else to confide your pain in, and keep in mind that the decision you’re making is on behalf of the team, the company, and their best interest.

Communicate the decision to your team with grace.

Ask how the person being let go prefers to break the news to the team. Their preference might be to send a farewell note themselves, or personally tell the team members they are closest with. Other times, they’ll ask you to simply relay the news for them. If it’s the latter, share the news with respect and mindfulness. Even if the person was fired for performance reasons that were 100% their own fault, thoughtfully consider what is appropriate to disclose. Imagine if the person fired were to overhear you sharing the news with the team: Would they feel it was fair? Use this as a benchmark for how to communicate the decision to your team.

No matter how you do it, letting someone go is one of the hardest things to do as a leader. There truly is no “best way” – but hopefully these tips will be helpful should you face this situation in the future.

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How to fire someone

In an earlier post, I described how our new CEO determined that we had to fire almost half our team. This sucked for many reasons, but the main one? It was emotional. Firing a terrible person is easy, but how do you fire a good person who is a bad fit in a way that doesn’t hurt them?

That was the next lesson from our new CEO, JT McCormick. He showed us how to fire someone, not just with dignity and respect, but in a way where they actually thank you for the experience. Literally, three of the five people he fired wrote him emails thanking him afterwards.

Here’s exactly what he did:

1. Transition from coaching them up, to coaching them out.

As I wrote in the last post, before you fire someone you should identify where they’re not performing, show them, set clear objectives, and give them the coaching they need to achieve them. If you’ve done this, and they nail it, grea — you won’t have to fire them.

As you are working through this process, you generally know if they are going to make it or not. If they don’t look like they’re going to make it, then the process to fire them starts. You start to move from from coaching them up, to coaching them out.

Done right, the processes naturally flow into each other, because they’re both about empathy. “Once you shift to coaching them out, it’s a very delicate series of conversations to get this person to see that they’re not a fit, see why they don’t fit and where they can’t grow with the company, and maybe see a path for them towards something else,” McCormick said. “The first coaching out conversation is diagnosing whether they’re not performing because they’re in the wrong chair. Ask them, ‘If you could do any job in the company, what would it be?'”

If you get a decisive answer, McCormick said, then you have to evaluate if they have the skills for that role. You can even test them in that role.

If you get an answer like, ‘I’m not sure’, then go one step further and ask them if they could create any role in the company — for themselves, what would it be? Have them describe the perfect job for themselves. “If they can’t tell you that,” McCormick said, “then it’s obvious, and not just to you. They’ll start to see this isn’t the place for them.

“The best result here is that they describe a job that does fit them really well, but does not exist in your company. Then they not only see that the company isn’t the right place for them, but that a place does exist for them somewhere else. So the real thing you’re trying to understand yourself, and help them to see, is not only are they not performing, but they’re probably not performing for a reason, and so the best thing possible for them is to move jobs.”

2. Make the dismissal about their dignity and humanity, not corporate HR rules.

Once the decision has been made to fire them, it’s time to stop coaching them out, and fire them. Now you make it completely about them. During the firing conversation, don’t focus on why you’re firing them; that groundwork has been laid already. Now it’s time to help them.

In the firing conversation, McCormick said, don’t focus on the negatives of what they’ve done. “We’ve already talked about this over the past few weeks, so why do that? I’ll go over it quickly, and then move on. I want to focus on the best plan of action for the exit so this person can move on with their life. You want to do right by them.”

This also means not talking to them in a dry, corporate, distant style. It means talking to them and like a human, and treating them like someone you know and value and care about.

“Big corporations have turned firing conversations into these HR nightmares where they’re afraid to say or do anything,” McCormick said. “The conversations are so cold and cutthroat, they really dehumanize people. To hell with that. You know this person, they are a good person, treat them like it.”

But this also means not pretending everything is fine. It’s not. They’re getting fired. “On the startup side,” he said, “the problem I see is that entrepreneurs let their feelings get in the way of saying what needs to be said. You have to be able to have a straight conversation with someone regarding the stark truth of what’s happening. Candor is a way of being kind.”

And sometimes, this means letting them say goodbye.

McCormick expands on that thought — “For many people, if they aren’t a complete asshole, you let them say goodbye, especially to the people they were friends with. Especially in startups where some of these folks were key in helping the growth of the company. You let that person save face and exit gracefully. You don’t escort them out with security, like they’re some animal. You treat them with respect by showing them you care about them.”

3. Let them know you will support them, and then actually do it.

That final conversation also needs to let them know, very clearly and specifically, what you are going to do to help them now. Remember — for you, this is the end of their tenure at your company. But they’re not dying. For them, this is their life.

For starters, McCormick said, his company gives the best severance package possible. “If possible, I like to pay eight weeks severance. To have a two month safety net to find their next opportunity really makes them feel safe and cared for, and they can relax,” he said.

McCormick tells employees not only will he write them a recommendation, but he’ll tell them what he’ll say in it. “I give them suggestions about what jobs to go after, based on our earlier conversations about what they want. I even offer to refer them to places I think they will be a good fit with.

“And most importantly,” he continues, “I tell them that this doesn’t have to be the end of our relationship. I’ll answer any questions, and I’ll give them any advice or help I can. Email me. Call me. Text me. I’m here for you if you need me. And I mean it. Most don’t take me up on this, but they still appreciate it, because they know it’s real. And they feel valued and cared for, even while being fired.”

And it works. Done correctly, McCormick said, the fired employees will learn a lot about themselves, and will eventually end up in a better place in their life because of what they learned from the process. “And they will email you and thank you afterwards.”

I never would have believed this until I saw it happen. Three different people from our company sent our CEO thank you emails after they left. His coaching had helped them see things about themselves, and his candor and kindness had been a real benefit to them.

Firing people is never fun, but it can leave everyone better off if it’s done right.

Follow the right procedure when dismissing employees

How to fire someone

Essential Documents to Dismiss Employees

  • Gross misconduct dismissal letter Confirm your employee’s summary dismissal
  • Gross misconduct dismissal letter Confirm your employee’s summary dismissal Start Now
  • Dismissal letter for employees without unfair dismissal rights Dismiss your employee with less than two years service
  • Dismissal letter for employees without unfair dismissal rights Dismiss your employee with less than two years service Start Now
  • Dismissal letter for poor performance Confirm your employee’s dismissal for poor performance
  • Dismissal letter for poor performance Confirm your employee’s dismissal for poor performance Start Now
  • Dismissal for redundancy letter Dismiss an employee on the grounds of redundancy
  • Dismissal for redundancy letter Dismiss an employee on the grounds of redundancy Start Now

Dismissing an employee can be complicated particularly if there have been misconduct or performance issues. Make sure you follow the correct procedure and avoid the Employment Tribunal.

Choose the correct letter for the situation. If an employee does not qualify for Unfair dismissal rights a Termination of employment letter is usually satisfactory. If they do qualify for unfair dismissal rights then make sure you follow the right procedure before dismissing them. This will usually involve establishing a potentially fair reason for dismissal, for example misconduct, lack of capability or qualifications or a redundancy situation. Consider using a Dismissal letter for misconduct when you want to dismiss an employee for misconduct or a Dismissal letter for poor performance once you’ve completed a fair and objective process. If at any time an employee commits an act of Gross misconduct, you can consider using a Summary dismissal letter to dismiss that employee without notice. Consider using a Redundancy dismissal letter when you want to dismiss employees by reason of redundancy, and once the correct process has been followed. It may sometimes be necessary to use a Settlement agreement to avoid litigation between an employer and employee.

Read the employment contract

Make sure you read the employee’s Contract of employment to avoid a breach of any terms in the agreement and any company policies and procedures (eg disciplinary policy). Check the agreed notice period for the employee to ensure you give enough notice before you dismiss them. If you want the employer to take Garden leave or receive a Payment in lieu of notice (PILON) check to see whether this is allowed in the employment contract. If there are no provisions relating to Garden leave or PILONs in the contract of employment then you won’t be able to enforce them. Doing so will be a breach of contract and can result in claims to the Employment Tribunal. If you want an employee to take garden leave or pay them in lieu of notice, you can do so if both you and the employee mutually agree to such an arrangement.

Gross misconduct

If an employee commits an act of gross misconduct (eg theft, intoxication at work, violence) they can be dismissed without a formal written warning or notice period using a Summary dismissal letter. However a hearing should still be held to consider the behaviour of the employee and to establish the facts. A fair process should still be followed and the employee should be able to state their defence to the alleged misconduct.

The unfair dismissal rule

The unfair dismissal rule states that employees can only be dismissed for one of five ‘fair’ reasons set out in law and after a fair process. A dismissal may be fair if it is by reason of:

  • capability
  • conduct
  • redundancy
  • a statutory requirement
  • some other substantial reason

These are legal terms set out under statute. For further information read Unfair dismissal.

Less than two years service

The unfair dismissal rule does not apply to employees who have worked for less than two years. A General dismissal letter can be used for these types of employees. However this doesn’t give employers the right to dismiss employees without good reason.There are some dismissals which will automatically be unfair whatever the length of service (eg if the employee is pregnant, on maternity leave or has reported a health and safety issue) which are set out in statute. For further information on automatic unfair dismissal read Unfair dismissal.

Two years or more continuous service

Employees who have worked for more than two years are protected by the rules on unfair dismissal. In this case, you must dismiss them for one of five potentially fair reasons. Unfair dismissal is a relatively complex area of law and dismissing employees who are protected will require a thorough process. Ask a lawyer for advice where you’re not sure if your reason for dismissal is a fair one.

A fair process must also be followed. For less serious misconduct an employer needs to give at least two formal warnings before dismissal. The same process must be followed if the employee is performing poorly. Use the right letters depending on whether you are dismissing for Poor performance or Misconduct and ensure you’ve followed a fair process before sending them.

Redundancy

Redundancy only applies where an employer stops carrying on the business for which an employee was employed or requires fewer employees to carry out work of that particular kind. There is a process which must be followed before dismissing for Redundancy which includes consultation, pooling and selection.

Notice periods

When an employer or employee wants to terminate the contract of employment it will be necessary to provide notice. The only times when a notice period doesn’t have to be given is where the fixed-term duration of the contract expires without renewal, gross misconduct or where there is a Payment in lieu of notice (PILON) clause. It’s important to give the correct notice period to prevent claims in the Employment Tribunal, most notably for Wrongful dismissal. For further information read Notice periods.

Settlement agreements (formerly compromise agreement)

Occasionally it may be necessary to ask an employee to sign a Settlement agreement to avoid litigation. A Settlement agreement waives an employee’s rights to bring a claim against an employer normally in exchange for payment. An employee must receive legal advice before signing the agreement and must not be put under undue pressure. For further information read Settlement agreements with employees.

How to fire someone

No one ever gets taught how to fire someone. You can take an MBA and never learn this skill. However, if you’re a leader, you’re going to have to do it. All leaders must know how to let an employee go.

If you’re afraid of firing someone, welcome to the club! Everyone faces fear, no matter how seasoned they are. If you feel completely comfortable doing this task, that’s a bad sign! But there’s one rule to overcoming fear: Take action. Instead of stewing over this decision, take action and get on with it.

An alternative to dismissal

There’s a simple way to help the employee save face and save you the pain of going through with the firing: allowing the employee to self-select out.

Here’s how it works. Meet with the employee and tell them that the situation is very serious, and that if things don’t change, they will be let go. Ask them if they’re happy in their role. Ask them if they’ve gotten bored or need a new challenge. Give them every opportunity to quit with dignity. Self-selecting out is in their interest because:

  • Having a firing on your resume is difficult to explain to a future employer
  • Firing can be a traumatic event and avoiding it helps everyone.

It may not work, but it’s worth a try.

When is the right time to fire?

The best day of the week for dismissal is on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. Avoid termination on or close to a weekend because the employee can’t take any action. They can’t apply for a new job. They can’t visit the Employment Insurance office. All they can do is go home and feel bad.

Don’t fire on or before a major holiday. Don’t fire in the middle of a personal crisis. This is not cool and not necessary except in extreme cases.

The best time of day to terminate an employee is at the end of the day when the employee doesn’t have to do the ‘walk of shame’ in front of their co-workers. Ideally, they’ll be able to leave the premises without facing others. Be nice. Preserve their dignity.

WHERE SHOULD YOU CONDUCT THE FIRING INTERVIEW?

The firing interview should take place in a semi-private room, with a witness present. You want to make sure there is enough privacy that you won’t be interrupted, and enough public accountability that the employee can’t claim that something abusive happened during the interview. Having a witness present is critical. The presence of a third person de-risks the situation and takes away the he-said she-said possibilities that could occur.

How to fire someone: the dismissal interview

  1. The interview should take no more than 8 minutes. In fact, 8 minutes is too long. It should be brief and to the point.
  2. Get right to the point. Skip the small talk.
  3. Say, “A decision has been made.” Be clear that the decision is not open to negotiation. The decision is already in the past.
  4. Cover the details. You don’t want to be calling your ex-employee in two days to ask about something that you forgot to cover. Make sure you’ve remembered:
    • Remaining pay
    • Benefits
    • Unused vacation time
    • Severance arrangements
    • Return of company property (technology, vehicles etc)
    • Ongoing project arrangements
    • Goodbyes to colleagues
  5. Finally, walk them to their desk and help them collect their things. Have a box ready. Be nice. Thank them for their contribution to the company. Shake their hand and wish them the best in the future.

What to say when firing someone

Here’s a sample script:

“Bob, please take a seat. We’ve talked about the issues with you in this role several times, and I’ve decided to make a change going forward. As of today, your employment with this company has been terminated.”

Get right to the point. Avoid small talk. Be direct, be kind and be clear that the decision has already been made. There’s no point in debating or arguing.

SHOULD I PUT IT IN WRITING?

There’s a maxim that says, ‘praise in writing, correct verbally.’ The reason for this is that verbal correction is listened to and the exact words are forgotten. The praise is in writing and remembered. This principle applies here too. Anything you put in writing will be taken home and analyzed and debated and disagreed with for weeks or years to come, and your letter may also end up in the hands of a labor lawyer to be used against you. You’re not required to put anything in writing, and you should not do it. This is key to how to fire someone properly.

WHAT NOT TO SAY when firing someone

  1. This is for the best. It doesn’t feel good to the person being fired, and it takes them time to see the good in it. You will not be part of their healing process.
  2. I understand how you’re feeling. Actually, you don’t. Even if you’ve been fired yourself, you don’t understand exactly how they’re feeling and your attempts to empathize will be cold comfort.
  3. If you had only… Now is not the time to go over what could or should have been done differently. The relationship is now over, and everyone needs to move on, not examine the causes for the breakdown.

LEGAL BASICS

Every country and region has its own laws governing employee rights. Check with a competent labor lawyer to make sure what the laws in your area are.

Regardless of where you live, you must give:

  • A reasonable notice period
  • Compensation already earned (vacation pay, share/bonus-based compensation, vacation not taken etc.)
  • Appropriate severance or working notice
  • Anything promised in your employee agreement

If the employee is seriously disgruntled and goes legal the law takes into account:

  • Age of the employee. Older workers may be considered ‘disadvantaged.’
  • Length of service
  • Level of responsibility
  • Amount of notice given
  • Possible discriminatory actions
  • Whether or not the employee was induced to join the company
  • Availability of similar employment given the employee’s age, training, experience, and qualifications
  • Whether the ‘punishment fits the crime.’ Was their behavior truly fire-worthy?

Summary of how to fire someone:

  1. Firing should never come as a surprise, so be sure to talk to the employee before firing to give them every chance to change their behavior
  2. The interview should not take more than 8 minutes
  3. The less you say, the better
  4. Cover the legal basics
  5. Be generous. Be nice
  6. The more prepared you are for the interview, the better it will go

Firing an employee is something no leader wants to do, but doing it in a professional way will make the process easier for everyone involved. Don’t let your heart getting in the way of doing what you know is right for everyone.

How to fire someone

No one ever gets taught how to fire someone. You can take an MBA and never learn this skill. However, if you’re a leader, you’re going to have to do it. All leaders must know how to let an employee go.

If you’re afraid of firing someone, welcome to the club! Everyone faces fear, no matter how seasoned they are. If you feel completely comfortable doing this task, that’s a bad sign! But there’s one rule to overcoming fear: Take action. Instead of stewing over this decision, take action and get on with it.

An alternative to dismissal

There’s a simple way to help the employee save face and save you the pain of going through with the firing: allowing the employee to self-select out.

Here’s how it works. Meet with the employee and tell them that the situation is very serious, and that if things don’t change, they will be let go. Ask them if they’re happy in their role. Ask them if they’ve gotten bored or need a new challenge. Give them every opportunity to quit with dignity. Self-selecting out is in their interest because:

  • Having a firing on your resume is difficult to explain to a future employer
  • Firing can be a traumatic event and avoiding it helps everyone.

It may not work, but it’s worth a try.

When is the right time to fire?

The best day of the week for dismissal is on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. Avoid termination on or close to a weekend because the employee can’t take any action. They can’t apply for a new job. They can’t visit the Employment Insurance office. All they can do is go home and feel bad.

Don’t fire on or before a major holiday. Don’t fire in the middle of a personal crisis. This is not cool and not necessary except in extreme cases.

The best time of day to terminate an employee is at the end of the day when the employee doesn’t have to do the ‘walk of shame’ in front of their co-workers. Ideally, they’ll be able to leave the premises without facing others. Be nice. Preserve their dignity.

WHERE SHOULD YOU CONDUCT THE FIRING INTERVIEW?

The firing interview should take place in a semi-private room, with a witness present. You want to make sure there is enough privacy that you won’t be interrupted, and enough public accountability that the employee can’t claim that something abusive happened during the interview. Having a witness present is critical. The presence of a third person de-risks the situation and takes away the he-said she-said possibilities that could occur.

How to fire someone: the dismissal interview

  1. The interview should take no more than 8 minutes. In fact, 8 minutes is too long. It should be brief and to the point.
  2. Get right to the point. Skip the small talk.
  3. Say, “A decision has been made.” Be clear that the decision is not open to negotiation. The decision is already in the past.
  4. Cover the details. You don’t want to be calling your ex-employee in two days to ask about something that you forgot to cover. Make sure you’ve remembered:
    • Remaining pay
    • Benefits
    • Unused vacation time
    • Severance arrangements
    • Return of company property (technology, vehicles etc)
    • Ongoing project arrangements
    • Goodbyes to colleagues
  5. Finally, walk them to their desk and help them collect their things. Have a box ready. Be nice. Thank them for their contribution to the company. Shake their hand and wish them the best in the future.

What to say when firing someone

Here’s a sample script:

“Bob, please take a seat. We’ve talked about the issues with you in this role several times, and I’ve decided to make a change going forward. As of today, your employment with this company has been terminated.”

Get right to the point. Avoid small talk. Be direct, be kind and be clear that the decision has already been made. There’s no point in debating or arguing.

SHOULD I PUT IT IN WRITING?

There’s a maxim that says, ‘praise in writing, correct verbally.’ The reason for this is that verbal correction is listened to and the exact words are forgotten. The praise is in writing and remembered. This principle applies here too. Anything you put in writing will be taken home and analyzed and debated and disagreed with for weeks or years to come, and your letter may also end up in the hands of a labor lawyer to be used against you. You’re not required to put anything in writing, and you should not do it. This is key to how to fire someone properly.

WHAT NOT TO SAY when firing someone

  1. This is for the best. It doesn’t feel good to the person being fired, and it takes them time to see the good in it. You will not be part of their healing process.
  2. I understand how you’re feeling. Actually, you don’t. Even if you’ve been fired yourself, you don’t understand exactly how they’re feeling and your attempts to empathize will be cold comfort.
  3. If you had only… Now is not the time to go over what could or should have been done differently. The relationship is now over, and everyone needs to move on, not examine the causes for the breakdown.

LEGAL BASICS

Every country and region has its own laws governing employee rights. Check with a competent labor lawyer to make sure what the laws in your area are.

Regardless of where you live, you must give:

  • A reasonable notice period
  • Compensation already earned (vacation pay, share/bonus-based compensation, vacation not taken etc.)
  • Appropriate severance or working notice
  • Anything promised in your employee agreement

If the employee is seriously disgruntled and goes legal the law takes into account:

  • Age of the employee. Older workers may be considered ‘disadvantaged.’
  • Length of service
  • Level of responsibility
  • Amount of notice given
  • Possible discriminatory actions
  • Whether or not the employee was induced to join the company
  • Availability of similar employment given the employee’s age, training, experience, and qualifications
  • Whether the ‘punishment fits the crime.’ Was their behavior truly fire-worthy?

Summary of how to fire someone:

  1. Firing should never come as a surprise, so be sure to talk to the employee before firing to give them every chance to change their behavior
  2. The interview should not take more than 8 minutes
  3. The less you say, the better
  4. Cover the legal basics
  5. Be generous. Be nice
  6. The more prepared you are for the interview, the better it will go

Firing an employee is something no leader wants to do, but doing it in a professional way will make the process easier for everyone involved. Don’t let your heart getting in the way of doing what you know is right for everyone.