How To Fire an Employee

Learning how to terminate an employee is just as vital as hiring exceptional ones. Not knowing how to properly fire someone can leave your organization in a costly legal quagmire. Here we’ll explain why and how to legally fire an employee, as well as address frequently asked questions.

Knowing When It Is Appropriate to Fire an Employee

Without a doubt, one of the least desired aspects of your job as a leader is firing. This is someone you choose from a pool of applications, hired, trained, and spent time with. Allowing them to go can have serious consequences for your company.

There are numerous reasons why you might need to fire an employee: perhaps their productivity is significantly and regularly low, perhaps their behavior depletes the morale of people around them, or perhaps you’re receiving complaints from other employees or even clients.

Unless you’re terminating for financial reasons, you should already have a record of an employee’s poor performance or behavioral difficulties, as well as recorded ways you’ve tried to help them improve. Remember that a discussion regarding behavior or performance might be an opportunity for you to help them grow professionally. However, if you were persistent in working with that employee and you don’t see improvement, or if you’re faced with disinterest, denial, or defensiveness after a few of these meetings, it’s definitely time to let that person go.

Reasons to Fire an Employee

#1. Termination due to poor performance.

Behavioral difficulties are a common basis for dismissal. If management has tried to remedy problematic conduct and documented it, but the situation persists or worsens, it’s time to let the employee go. Allowing bad behavior to continue despite warnings sets a negative example and is detrimental to morale.

#2. Termination based on performance.

After being offered a second chance, employees who fail to reach performance targets are frequently sacked. If training and reviews haven’t worked, it could be because they’re in the incorrect position. If you are unable to transfer them to a different location, it is time to terminate.

#3. Termination due to poor attitude.

Termination for a bad attitude may be difficult legally. You may be better off not giving a reason if the employee works at will. If the employee is not an at-will employee and must be fired for a reason, you must first document specific examples of the attitude problems.

#4. Termination for disobedience.

If an employee refuses to do job-related activities, refuses to follow a valid and ethical management instructions, or is disrespectful to a manager or supervisor, it’s time to consider termination for insubordination. You should meticulously document any instances of it.

#5. Sexual harassment termination.

Employers who fail to take sexual harassment allegations seriously risk being held accountable for creating a hostile work environment. Document any specific proof thoroughly. If an employee works at will and the evidence is ambiguous, it may be best to fire them without explanation.

#6. Attendance termination.

If an employee frequently violates business policies, it could be time to fire them. Make a note of each instance and make the employee aware of the repercussions of continuous absences or lateness.

#7. Dismissal for bullying.

Workplace bullying or harassment in the form of unwanted, aggressive behavior is frequently grounds for termination. Document all complaints and spell out the penalties.

#8. Dismissal for safety violations.

Terminating an employee for safety infractions, even if justified, can be problematic since it may be interpreted as retaliation against an employee for reporting safety hazards. If you are considering terminating someone due to safety concerns, seek legal advice.

Other factors that may lead to dismissal include a significant code of conduct violation or when an employee simply ceases turning up, in which case you have a job desertion.

How to Fire an Employee

This is a step-by-step approach to firing staff.

#1. Communicate freely and honestly with the employee prior to termination.

If you have an employee that isn’t performing well, consider talking about these issues with them privately and diplomatically, without suggesting disciplinary or dismissal. In some circumstances, the employee will agree with your evaluations and quit on their own.

#2. Decide on a time, day, and location.

Set a time and day to meet with the employee in a quiet location away from other employees. Determine a meeting time that permits the employee to gather their stuff quietly and out of sight of other employees immediately following the meeting.

#3. Plan ahead of time.

Make a script out of what you wish to say. Outline your grounds for terminating them, whether it’s for a single infringement or a series of long-term infractions. But make sure the explanations aren’t for conduct that you’re absolving other employees of. Your screenplay should emphasize that your decision is definitive and that there is no way you will change your mind.

#4. Bring a coworker with you.

If the employee becomes furious or irritated, a business partner, direct supervisor, or HR employee should be there to keep things calm. Another person in the room is also useful in case the terminated employee files any legal claims based on what was discussed during the termination discussion.

#5. Avoid making things personal.

Be gracious if an employee isn’t a good fit for your company’s culture. Don’t belittle the employee; just because they don’t fit in at your organization doesn’t imply they won’t fit in somewhere else. Similarly, if an employee performs poorly, do not dismiss them or belittle their intelligence. Inform them that their performance falls short of your standards.

Make firing an employee a personal matter. Avoid insulting or disparaging an employee simply because they do not fit into your corporate culture. Simply remind them that their performance does not meet your company’s standards and that you wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors.

#6. Keep it brief.

Allow enough time for your employee to ask questions and for you to convey your case – probably no more than 10 minutes altogether. If they ask you a question, keep your responses brief and to the point.

#7. Obtain the employee’s corporate papers.

When you fire an employee, you must retrieve any corporate materials they may have in their hands. This includes keys, ID cards, work laptops, and other items. Change the passwords for all company software that the employee has access to.

#8. Provide and explain severance benefits, if applicable.

Explain how the employee will receive severance pay or COBRA insurance if your organization provides these benefits to discharged employees. Make it clear when the employee may expect to get their final compensation – you must pay for all work completed, even if it is of poor quality. If the employee is required to sign any nondisclosure agreements, have them sign these before they leave.

What to Consider Before You Fire an Employee

#1. Your feelings

You’re a leader, and while your job is mostly focused on developing other great leaders, it also means you’re the one who has to let someone go when, for whatever reason, it’s just not working.

It can be a heavy emotional burden to bear, despite the adage, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.” Even if you know it’s the best move for you and your company, it’s difficult not to feel a little guilty about what you’re doing. It can be much more difficult to find out how to fire someone you actually appreciate.

So, before you perform a crime, give yourself a boost. Remember: the meeting will most likely be uncomfortable, but no matter how emotional the company break-up is for you, you must do your best to keep your emotions in check throughout the discussion. The last thing you want is for the person you’re leaving to have to console you because you’re so upset over having to say goodbye. That is unjust to them and only adds insult to pain.

Instead, arrange for a confidant, such as a partner, spouse, or friend, to provide an outlet for any feelings you may have thereafter.

You may be the HR department at a small business. If this is the case, it doesn’t harm to obtain legal counsel to ensure that you are handling the firing process properly and in accordance with all legal requirements.

However, if you are a larger company with HR people or an outsourced partnership, you should get their counsel on the method to ensure dismissal does not become a legal issue that will come back to haunt you.

You should absolutely ensure that you have all of the aforementioned documents on the employee’s performance and behavior in order to have a paper trail. This should contain performance reports, any warnings you may have given them, and any other coaching information. Before the meeting, draft a termination letter (approved by the aforementioned lawyer) to send to the employee once the news has been delivered.

#3. Logistical considerations

You should also plan out all of the logistics ahead of time: How will you collect any corporate property in their hands, such as keys or computers? When and how will you give them their final paycheck? What will you tell them when they question why they were fired? You must be prepared to deal with any situation, especially if you do not have a specialized HR person.

After the event, you’ll need to know how you’ll manage any remaining emails sent to their address, as well as how to alter any business passwords known to the employee. Make sure you have a strategy in place ahead of time so you don’t forget anything.

Reasons to Fire an Employee That Are Illegal

When faced with the decision to fire an employee, make sure you’re not breaking the law. Consult an attorney if you have any doubts.
Even in cases of at-will employment, there are completely illegal and improper reasons to fire someone.

  • Discrimination: If your dismissal methods are discriminatory, you are in violation of federal law. Read more about equal employment opportunity compliance in this article.
  • Retaliation: If an employee threatens to sue for suspected discrimination, workplace safety issues, or other reasons, you cannot fire them. You cannot also fire employees who refuse to comply with illegal requests.
  • Refusal to participate in lie detector tests: Your employees have the freedom to refuse lie detector tests in most instances. Refusing to take these tests is not a fireable offense.
  • Immigration status: You cannot fire an employee because of their immigration status as long as they may legally work in the United States.

What Should You Say to the Rest of Your Team?

You cannot conceal the fact that you have sacked a member of your staff. Your staff will notice and begin to wonder why you let an employee go if it wasn’t obvious.
People will speculate and make assumptions. They may be concerned about their own job security. They could be relieved or enraged.

Prepare ahead of time to inform the rest of your team members of the news. Transparency allows your fellow employees to understand how to improve and keep their employment.
Some team members may have concerns about their performance, and this could be an ideal opportunity to provide feedback and strengthen relationships.

Moving Forward

Your efforts to fire someone nicely will not go ignored. The rest of your team will see that you value people enough to be considerate in such instances. Maybe the person you’re firing won’t notice it right away, but you’re doing your best to be considerate and avoid hurting their feelings.

Make an effort to end the conversation on a positive note. If they were a wonderful person, offer your suggestions for professional development. You would be assisting them in their future job search. Bring up any tips or professional insights you have as well. Any information you can provide will help them in their search for new employment.

These are challenging decisions and conversations. You will gain confidence and develop new skills that will benefit you and your staff in the future. It will help you become a more well-rounded boss and a more polite person in the long run.


One of the most difficult things you’ll have to do as a manager is fire, someone. However, all managers will have to go through it at some time in their careers. While terminating someone will never be pleasant, there are numerous things you can do to make the process less painful for everyone involved.

That being stated, the most crucial thing for a manager who intends to fire someone is to plan ahead of time. So, before calling that meeting, spend the time and effort necessary to prepare so that everything goes as well as possible.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like