If you have to fire someone, do it the right way by following these tips.

One of the most difficult things most managers ever have to do is fire an employee. Whether you call it “letting someone go” or a “dismissal,” taking someone off the payroll is never easy. The conversation is gut-wrenching, and the change affects your entire team. People start to wonder about their own security and may question your judgment as they deal with changing work assignments. 

In light of all this, many managers make the firing process even worse by letting anxiety get in the way. In an effort to get the moment over with, many managers avoid a difficult discussion about the employee’s performance and don’t explain their choice by simply saying “We are letting you go” and turning the now former employee over to the human resources department. This approach may help managers avoid the anxiety caused by the firing process, but it is definitely the wrong way to terminate an employee relationship. 

These guidelines will help you get through the emotionally charged process in the best way possible: 

  1. Before uttering the words “you’re fired,” make sure that it is the last resort in a thoughtful, careful, transparent and fair process. If it is, the firing won’t come as a huge surprise to the employee. For example, if poor performance is the reason for dismissal, it should only happen after a series of discussions, documented actions and plans regarding the performance. If job elimination is the reason, the firing should come after a reasonable fair warning given through announcements and conversations.
  2. When you fire someone, you have to be prepared to answer some practical questions. You should be able to tell your employee the official end date, discuss severance arrangements, offer career counseling or other opportunities within the company if possible and discuss benefits. To learn the answers to these questions, consult with an HR rep before the “firing meeting.” 
  3. Losing a job can be a traumatic experience. Be prepared for your employee to show a range of emotions, some of which may be directed toward you. Instead of responding to an angry outburst or emotional plea, respectfully listen before directing the employee towards more practical concerns, like those outlined above. If emotions are raw, offer to complete the discussion at a later time with a trained HR counselor. 
  4. Following the dismissal, communicate with your team. Talk about the reasoning behind your decision, the process and how the firing will affect them. Remaining employees are often left with an incomplete picture of what happened, which causes them anxiety and may lead them to question your judgment. You can prevent this by communicating within the bounds of confidentiality and being sensitive to their emotions.