How to Fire an Employee

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Whatever the reason, sometimes you just have to let an employee go--or as "The Donald" would say, "You're Fired." It can be poor job performance, going against established personnel policies, being a danger to oneself or others, or as is typical in today's bad economy, simply to cut staff. Some suggestions for letting someone go:

Document Everything. You'll need to have a legal reason for letting the employee go, which is why you should have documentation to back up the termination. Keep records (in writing) of the employee's performance—both interpersonal and professional. Document meetings and verbal warnings you gave the employee. List any specific behaviors you asked the employee to correct. Have the employee read and sign the written warning.

Adhere to company personnel policies. Clear and concise personnel policies that specify how and when an employee can be terminated will help immensely. Most HR departments have detailed manuals on this. Follow the procedures and ask your HR head for help if necessary.

Review your termination process. Before you let the employee go, review all your documentation. Plan the termination so that you know if the employee will leave immediately or work the rest of the week. Terminations are best handled on Fridays at the end of the workday. Consider, too, if you plan to give this person a reference for future employment. Work with your HR department to determine how to handle accrued vacation, sick, personal time and unemployment compensation.

Be prepared for the reaction. Terminated employees may react in any number of ways. Some cry, some become angry or even violent. If the person is known to have a hot temper, consider alerting security. Give the person time and "space" to react but don't apologize. Some employees may threaten legal action, which is common. Let them blow off steam. As always, document everything that occurs during the termination meeting.

Brief co-workers. Do this immediately before rumors start. Be direct but do not go into specifics. Respect the employee's confidentiality. Let other employees know how to continue working in the absence of the terminated employee, especially if they have been working as a team.

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Alex A. Kecskes has written hundreds of published articles on health/fitness, "green" issues, TV/film entertainment, restaurant reviews and many other topics. As a former Andy/Belding/One Show ad agency copywriter, he also writes web content, ads, brochures, sales letters, mailers and scripts for national B2B and B2C clients.


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