How to Fire an Employee: Three Things You Must Never Do

Your employees spend most of their day in the workplace, which is why it should feel safe and comfortable to be a part of. To keep the company running smoothly, it’s also imperative that all employees remain productive and efficient while working. If any employees are finding it challenging to accomplish this, it may be time to find other employees who can provide more value to your team. Learn the importance of appropriately letting an employee go, review tips to follow when conducting a termination meeting and read frequently asked questions regarding how to fire an employee.


Post a Job

Why it’s important to know how to appropriately fire an employee

The decision to fire an employee is challenging to make, but doing so can benefit your team if an employee is struggling to meet important deadlines or is making others feel unsafe. Since firing an employee can be an emotional process, it’s essential to manage it professionally. 


Knowing how to appropriately fire someone allows the employee to handle the news of being let go maturely and calmly, which keeps them from taking any legal action against your company. It also decreases the chances of them spreading negative feedback about your company to others.  


If the reason for firing an employee is rational and clearly explained, you have a higher likelihood of the employee feeling more understanding about being let go. Common reasons supervisors may fire employees include: 


  • Unprofessional attitude 
  • Low performance
  • Being insubordinate 
  • Poor attendance 
  • Bullying 
  • Sexual harassment 
  • Creating an unsafe environment 


Tips to follow when firing an employee

You should strategize your plan for firing an employee ahead of time to ensure you’re conducting a professional termination experience. Follow the tips below to properly fire an employee: 


Provide warnings before deciding to fire them

Before making the final decision to fire an employee, provide warnings to keep them from feeling surprised. Giving warnings shows you want to help them improve and allows them a chance to understand what they need to fix. As you provide verbal warnings, sit down with them to learn what they’re struggling with and ask how you can help them make the necessary improvements. 


Develop a performance improvement plan to help them understand what to change. This plan can include a clear strategy and goals for them to follow.


Document each warning you give as proof that you discussed these issues with them. After two or three warnings and attempts to help them better their performance, follow through with firing the employee. Bring along the documentation stating when you administered any warnings and use them as proof that you alerted them of the need to improve their performance. 

Related: How to Create a Performance Improvement Plan


Meet with the employee in person 

When letting an employee go, it’s important to remain respectful at all times, so they leave with a more positive and reassuring feeling. Meeting with them in person is a great way to carefully explain the reason you’re dismissing them and to answer any questions they may have. Getting fired is a challenging process, so it’s important that they receive all the facts and information in person to help them understand their performance and what to change.


Be honest throughout your explanation 

The news of being fired may surprise or confuse the employee, causing the need for clarification. Carefully explain the reasoning for their dismissal and remain honest. Remind them that they received warnings and still could not meet the guidelines you laid out for them. To ensure you’re clearly explaining the situation, have your answer for why you’re firing them ready ahead of time. 


As you continue to give your explanation for letting them go, remain confident in your choice. Make sure the employee understands that your decision is final. Giving an employee the impression that you may rehire them can cause them to feel more emotional and leave on worse terms with your company. 


Give them space to gather their items 

Once you’ve clearly explained that you’re letting them go, give the employee a chance to collect their belongings. Request their employee ID, entry badge and any other company items. To keep them feeling comfortable in front of coworkers, suggest they collect their things during a lunch break, after hours or ask employees to wait in a conference room. 


Allowing the employee to pick up their possessions privately helps preserve their dignity and keeps the office environment feeling positive and professional.

Related: How to Manage Your Employees


Use an employee termination checklist

To keep the meeting and firing process organized, prepare an employee termination checklist beforehand. Include all the talking points you want to cover during the meeting and any additional information to give an employee before finishing the termination meeting. 


Using a checklist helps you stay on track and in control of the entire conversation. It also ensures that you address everything that you need to, including why you are firing them and what else you need to finalize the process. 


Termination FAQs

Review the frequently asked questions below regarding the proper termination of an employee: 


How can I end the termination meeting on a more positive note? 

During the meeting, keep your reasoning for letting them go simple and concise, so the employee doesn’t feel they’re spending too much time discussing an uncomfortable topic. To make them feel more positive about the situation, give them brief advice on the job search process and try to use words of encouragement before ending the meeting. 


Do I have to give a reason for firing someone? 

It’s best to provide the employee with the reason you are firing them to help them understand what improvements to make and apply toward the next role they pursue. Review your state’s specific workplace laws to learn if you’re required to give a reason. You may have to submit a service letter stating why you let an employee go, especially if the employee requests one. 


Post a Job

Ready to get started?

Post a Job

*Indeed provides this information as a courtesy to users of this site. Please note that we are not your career or legal advisor, and none of the information provided herein guarantees a job offer.