End on a Good Note: 12 Best Practices for Firing an Employee

by Corey Philip //  November 17, 2022

Dismissing an employee is a tense and agonizing experience for the employer and the employee. However, termination doesn’t have to be tormenting for those involved. It is best to end a business relationship on a good note.

Additionally, a termination interview is a sensitive topic that requires respect and tact to make the experience more tolerable.

So, what are the best practices for firing an employee?

First, ensure that the termination isn’t a surprise and follow consistent procedures. Then, prepare to prove a fair dismissal, choose the right setting, and include a witness. During the firing, keep it short, show compassion, collect company materials, and inform the team.

In this post, we will go deeper on the best practices on how to fire an employee while ending the business relationship on a good note.

Best Practices For Firing An Employee

Firing an employee is a challenging decision. However, several reasons justify termination, which includes:

  • excessive absenteeism
  • poor performance
  • misleading and unethical behavior
  • discrimination
  • property damage
  • violation of company policies
  • downsizing

You cannot, however, wrongfully fire an employee for reasons including discrimination, retaliation, whistleblowing, immigration status, or refusing to take a lie detector test. Irrespective of the reason, firing an employee is easier said than done. However, if handled poorly, termination can lead to low work morale and a toxic environment.

Fortunately, there are clever ways to navigate a termination to ensure you and the fired employee end your partnership on a good note. Implement the following best practices when firing an employee to avoid legal issues and to end things on a good note.

1. Give Poor Fitting Employees an Opportunity to Improve

Usually, an employee is fired for failing to perform or breaking a rule. However, in some instances, an organization may want to terminate someone’s employment for being a “bad fit.”

A good or bad fit is mainly an issue of the corporate culture. A poorly fitting employee may struggle to adapt to the pre-existing team and portray characteristics that prevent them from working well with other employees. It is legal to fire someone who is a poor cultural fit if your state follows “at-will” employment. Ensure you aren’t firing someone for discriminatory or retaliation reasons.

First, have a conversation with the employee where you express your concerns. Then, grant the employee the opportunity to improve or to realize that the job isn’t the best fit. In some cases, the employee may quit without you having to fire them.

2. Termination Should Be No Surprise

A termination meeting shouldn’t ever be the first time your employee finds out that they are failing to perform effectively or have behavior problems. Instead, terminations should result from performance evaluations, multiple warnings, and disciplinary procedures that indicate inadequate performance or behavior.

Irrespective of the reasons for termination, it needs to be well-documented preceding the decision. Additionally, the employee needs to receive consistent feedback from management before termination.

Remember: When an employee is unaware that termination is imminent, lawsuits may arise.

3. Follow Consistent Procedures

Approach termination procedures with consistency, sensitivity, fairness, and transparency. Consistency will prevent potential discrimination lawsuits from employees that feel they are treated differently.

Create a written progressive disciplinary procedure accessible to all your employees, regardless of the worker’s tenure, department, or position. Disciplinary procedures clarify the company’s rules and policies to all employees, save time, and reduce the risk of wrongful dismissals.

4. Prepare Beforehand to Prove Fair Dismissal

Prepare beforehand to prove that the behavior of an employee warrants dismissal. Carefully document the reasons, evidence, and process followed leading to termination. Ensure the employee’s behavior breaches internal policies and laws, including:

  • workplace conduct
  • harassment
  • discrimination
  • fraud
  • health and safety
  • and theft

Efficient documentation ensures ethical dismissal and protects your business from defamation lawsuits. During termination, you can use established evidence and policies to help the employee understand why they are fired.

Pro tip: You can pen down the discussion by outlining the primary reasons for dismissal. Then, practice your argument and ensure you have all the documentation for a smooth interview.

5. Choose the Right Time and Place

Humiliating a soon-to-be ex-employee is never the proper strategy. Instead, discuss an appropriate time and location to meet with the employee.

Conduct the dismissal interview in a private area behind closed doors and away from other workers (e.g., conference room). Termination can also impact other employees by instilling fear and draining morale. Additionally, aim to meet when the employee can gather their belongings discreetly without drawing attention (e.g., lunchtime or after-hours).

6. Do not Rush into the Meeting

Give yourself at least 15 minutes before the exiting interview. Use this time to relax and gather your thoughts before the employee arrives.

7. Have a Third Party Representative with You

It is advisable not to fire an employee alone. Instead, ask an HR representative or business partner to join in on the dismissal. Having a third-party witness present helps in case the terminated employee chooses to make legal claims about what you said during the termination meeting. A witness can confirm that you acted legally and ethically while firing the employee.

8. Stick to the Facts and Avoid making it Personal

Avoid making firing a personal endeavor.

Avoid insulting an employee that doesn’t meet the performance requirements or match the company culture. Instead, stick to the facts when firing an employee by informing them that their performance doesn’t fit the company’s expectations.

9. Keep it Short and Simple

Firing someone is unpleasant and uncomfortable. Avoid dragging the meeting by reinforming the employee of your dissatisfaction. Instead, be brief, resolute with the decision, and clear about the reasons for dismissal.

Additionally, be prepared to explain severance benefits, final wages, and nondisclosure agreements, and briefly reply if there are any questions regarding the termination.

10. Show Compassion

Show empathy and compassion when firing an employee – it shows humanity and that you care about their best interest too.

If the employee has skills and talents that simply don’t match your company culture, offer to help by providing references or making introductions. After the termination meeting, offer to walk the ex-employee back to their office or desk to collect their belongings and escort them out of the office.

11. Retrieve Company Materials

After termination, politely ask the employee to return company material, including keys, electronic devices, ID cards, and more.

12. Inform Co-Workers

Communicate the termination to your team as soon as possible to prevent draining morale and squelching rumors in the workplace. Ensure the message is straightforward while keeping the reason for your decision confidential.

Briefly discussing the termination with respect and dignity with co-workers to show them that you care for the team. It prevents the other employees from constantly looking behind their backs, expecting to be fired next.

Ultimately, communication ensures the work environment to stay healthy.

Final Thoughts

The truth is there’s no universal right or wrong way to carry out the termination of an employee. However, implementing these best practices for firing an employee ensures you end on a respectful and good note. It also keeps positive morale and a healthy work atmosphere between the remaining employees.

After losing an employee, hiring a new one is inevitable. With that, you need to know the best practices on how to build a sense of team for onboarding contractors. Read this article to learn more.

About the author

Corey Philip

Corey Philip is a small business owner / investor with a focus on home service businesses.

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