“You’re Fired”: The Tactful Way to Let an Employee Go

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There is nothing more difficult than relieving an employee of their duties. However, there comes a time when it is the only option. As a manager, you need to make sure you have coordinated with HR and covered your bases with regards to documentation as to the nature of the events leading up to the employee’s release. Next up is the most dreaded conversation any boss has to have. You have to tell an employee to their face that they are no longer part of the team. Just how do you go about it? Here are some tips.

Don’t wait too long

Although having to fire someone you have worked with for a long time and respect is daunting, you must not delay the conversation because of your personal feelings. When an employee creates more problems than they are solving, or when the bad outweighs the good, it is time relieve that employee of their duties.

Of course, firing needs to be the last step in a transparent and fair process that started long before the termination talk. There also needs to be enough paperwork to support the action you are taking. Even where the documentation process becomes complex, there is need to remain focused. You won’t regret acting too quickly when it comes to termination but you may regret waiting too long.

Keep it short

When firing a worker, the words you use need to be simple and to the point. Take the employee somewhere private and get on with the conversation. “I have bad news for you. This is your last day with us.” After that, explain the reasons for termination in a professional manner. It is normal for the affected employee to lash out at you and even call you names, but do your best not exchange with them. You can only tell them you are sorry the situation got to this point.

Consult HR

It is a good idea to check with HR before you continue with your employee termination. First, you have to ensure that there is an HR rep attending the meeting. Second, the human resource department can offer a more complete picture of the extenuating circumstances of the employee should there be any that you are unaware of. HR could, for example, tell you that the employee’s wife begins cancer treatment a day before you intend to fire him, in which case it would appear inhumane to dismiss him.

Remain in the room

Some experts say that after delivering the bad news, you should remain silent and even vacate the room. However, this is not the right thing to do. Leadership demands that you be compassionate. Do not run away. Be ready to speak as asked of you and answer any question that comes up.

Prior to this talk, you should familiarize yourself with your former employee’s severance agreement details, and what becomes of their benefit as well as unused vacation time. This is an important step in releasing your employee but being respectful of their time with you and the benefits they have earned during their service.

Talk to your team

After the employee has left, gather all your colleagues affected by the departure and address the matter. Do not tell them why the employee was let go; that is best kept private. Not only is this information confidential but is also sets a dangerous precedent for the badmouthing of former employees. Ask your team for suggestions on how to minimize the effects of the fired employee’s absence.

You may also want to allay fears that the company has started downsizing. Reassure your team that there was a reason the employee was fired and that it has nothing to do with eliminating roles. And if you want to send a message that poor behavior will not be tolerated, you may give a few details. For instance you could say: “We have terminated John’s employment. I won’t go into details but John violated our sexual harassment policy. We don’t tolerate that.”

Every manager’s nightmare is to sit down with an employee and tell them that they have been fired. It gets even worse when the employee in question is someone you’ve worked with for a long time. To make the job simpler, be as brief and to the point as possible, do not wait too long to act and consult HR before firing the employee.

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