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How do I fire an employee?

Follow these tips for minimizing confusion and animosity during a termination meeting (or phone call).

1. Get to the point. 

Avoid small talk and say what you need to say. 

"Hi _________. Sorry to break this to you, but we've decided to let you go. I've taken you off the schedule, effective immediately. Thank you for the work you've put in, but it's time to part ways." 

2. Jump straight to logistics before you allow any questions.

The employee is going to need some time to digest what just happened. Give them a moment to recover by sharing important next step instructions that may help avoid aggravation. 

"I'll have your final paycheck ready on ________. Our HR rep will be sending you a separation letter today with details on how you can choose to receive that. They will also send you some information regarding unemployment and ask you to confirm a few pieces of info so we can make sure there are no issues with your year-end W-2. 

If you don't already have online access to your pay information, HR can help you out with that, too."

3. Arrange for the return of company property.

If the employee is in possession of company property that needs to be returned (eg. keys, access card, uniform, laptop, phone, etc.), request those be handed over immediately. If the termination is taking place over the phone, propose a time and place for the return. 

"My records show that you were issued two aprons. Are you able to come in on Friday at 2:00PM to return those to me?"

If the employee cannot come in at the proposed time, give them a deadline and a consequence for failure to return the item(s).

"OK. I do need to receive those items back by noon on Tuesday in order to make sure the payroll department doesn't deduct the $___ non-return fee from your final check. Is there another time you can come, or would you prefer to mail those back?"

4. Give the employee an opportunity to ask questions. Answer those questions truthfully and respectfully.

It shouldn't be a surprise to someone why they are getting fired. If they haven't been performing well, this should have been addressed with the employee previously so they could have the opportunity to fix the problem. In any case, keep it simple and do not give the employee the impression that you may rehire them. 

"We’ve made several attempts to get you trained to our standards, but we’re not seeing the progress we’d hoped for. I'm very sorry this hasn't worked out."

"The company needs XXXX right now. Your strengths are YYYY. This is not a good match right now. I'm very sorry this hasn't worked out."

If you do not know the answer to a logistical question, just say so. Redirect the employee to the best resource for getting an answer. 

"That’s a good question and I’m not sure I know the definitive answer to that. Could I have our HR department contact you with that info? Here is their contact info in case you want to reach out directly."

5. Wish them well and make sure we can reach them going forward. 

"Could you please confirm your email address so I can make sure HR is able to get your letter out to you?"

"Thanks. Be on the lookout for that email today. Thank you for taking my call. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do for you."