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How to Fire an Employee the Right Way

Nearly every business will eventually find itself in the position of having to fire an employee at some point during the life of the business. However unpleasant it may seem, terminating an employee is most often a necessity to keep operations running smoothly and efficiently.

Reasons to Fire an Employee

There are many, many reasons a business would decide to terminate an employee. Some of the more common reasons include poor job performance, missed deadlines, attendance issues, an unprofessional attitude, insubordination, rudeness, bullying or intimidation, sexual harassment, and creating a hostile or unsafe environment.

When firing an employee, it’s best to clearly explain the reason for termination in a rational manner. This increases the chances of the employee having a full understanding and acceptance of why they are being terminated, and it may keep them from having a knee-jerk reaction of anger or frustration that could potentially escalate into a negative situation.

Reasons for Immediate Termination

There are times when an employee must be terminated immediately. Some of those reasons include:

  • Violent threats, violent acts, stalking
  • Slurs based on religion, ethnicity, race, or gender
  • Profanity against peers or customers
  • Not following safety procedures
  • Insubordination

Why Termination Protocol Is Important?

Firing an employee from your business sounds basic, but it can be a more complicated process than one might think. If an employer suddenly decides to terminate an employee on a whim, it could cause problems the employer wouldn’t have anticipated. If executed the right way, the firing process could go calmly where the employee is essentially okay and leaves without creating a scene. It could also prevent them from pursuing legal action against your business, and possibly even talking negatively about your company in the public or over social media.

Try to Correct the Situation

For anyone in an ownership or managerial position that has to fire an employee, it always helps to have a strategy. Having a checklist to cover what you want to say is an excellent idea. Keep the firing process as professional as possible, and it will go more smoothly.

Before the situation ever gets to the firing process, you should try to fix the problem and possibly allow the employee to stay. Offer them guidance so they can change, if possible. Alert them that there is a problem, but you are going to attempt to solve the problem. If they need more training, give them more training. But if they simply don’t have enough experience or knowledge to perform their job correctly, then both you and the employee will realize they are underqualified and cannot continue.

Sometimes the reason for termination is not related to the employee’s knowledge or experience level. An employee might be exhibiting behavior issues they don’t realize are inappropriate. If their behavior isn’t too outlandish or offensive, it would be appropriate to offer them sensitivity training from the Public Relations Department (PR). Counseling may be necessary in addition to apologies to the offended fellow coworkers or clients. This is often an easy choice for an employee if they want to keep their job.


Anytime there is a problem with an employee, it’s imperative for the employer to keep a record of every detail of the employee’s behavior, their performance, attempted solutions to the problem, who else might have been affected, how often the problem occurs, how long the problem has been occurring, the employee’s willingness to solve the problem, and progress toward finding a solution.

If an employee files for wrongful termination and you have no documentation of working with the employee to find a solution, your company may have to shell out some serious money to settle a lawsuit. However, if you break out a file of documents detailing the problem in addition to the steps taken to solve the problem, this will help show a clear pattern of working with the employee to find a solution and not being able to establish one.

When an employee is being fired, it should not come as a surprise to them. If they are blindsided, they can feel unfairly treated and seek legal retaliation. However, if you have a carefully chronicled and detailed file of documentation showing the employee was alerted of the problem, retrained, counseled, and any other details, this usually takes the employer off the hook for any sort of wrongful termination.

Tips to Correctly Fire an Employee

When you need to fire an employee, you must do it in person. An employee shouldn’t have to learn about their termination for text, email, or termination letter. Do it in person. The worst way to approach a firing is by telling other employees, and then the employee to be fired hears about it through a third party. This is completely unprofessional.

Instead, call the employee in your office and do it face-to-face. Remain respectful and professional, and they will feel better about having been fired. Be honest and explain your reasons, then answer any questions they may have. Anticipate this by having a thorough answer ready. Remember to explain to them that you tried to work with them, but your efforts were unsuccessful. At this point, it’s important to stick to your guns and don’t let them talk you into “another chance”. You have already done all you can.

Allow Them Dignity

When it’s time to let an employee go, it’s often best to avoid firing them in front of their peers. If it can be done before the day starts, after the day ends, or during a lunch break, this would allow the terminated employees to gracefully gather their possessions and quietly leave the premises unnoticed.

Firing an employee is rarely a pleasant task, but it still has to be done. And when it does, it’s best to be prepared with as much documentation as possible and a clear plan on how you will handle the situation.

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