How To Fire Someone With Respect


How to Fire an Employee

Edited byJack Herrick

If you have a problem employee, you have but two choices: try to coach him or her to be better, or let him or her go. When you finally make the decision to fire someone, chances are you will later wonder what took you so long. This article will show you how.


  1. Be clear about duties when an employee is hired. Provide a job description the employee signs off on to prove he or she understood the duties s/he was taking on.
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    Discuss with employees any behaviour that is immediate grounds for termination. Don’t wait until behaviour is already occurring. Be sure that all employees understand firing offenses, such as failing to disclose a past arrest record, lying about past employment, failing a drug test, insubordination, excessive absence (how much is excessive?), etc.

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    Give annual performance appraisals. Evaluate employee work at least once a year and document deficiencies in performance versus your expectations or the actual job requirements.

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    Be sure of your standing. Unless you are the company owner, know your employer’s rules about firing someone, as there may be specific steps you are required to take in order to actually fire someone – even if the employee is not doing the job. Never undermine your employer by taking on such decisions without at least conferring with him first.

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    Act quickly when problems are noticed. Be sure to communicate performance problems as soon as you are aware of them, and coach staffers on how to improve. It’s best to communicate this over email (ask them all who receive it to reply so that you know they have received and understood) so that there is some record of this communication. When you counsel an employee, focus on behaviour. “You have failed to meet deadlines on eleven out of the past sixteen assignments” is appropriate. “You’re slacking off” is not appropriate.

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    Retain a record of the disciplinary action. Have the employee sign some sort of document outlining the conversation in order to cover yourself. It should specifically state that the employee is not admitting fault, but has been told that job performance is not satisfactory. Outline specific improvements / changes required in order for him or her to keep this job, and give clear deadlines as to when these improvements / changes must be seen. Also be clear that the next stage is termination.

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    Give benchmarks to meet. You can’t expect all problems to be solved immediately, so giving a timeline and some improvements attached to deadlines will help show improvement (or not). If the employee continues to underperform, be sure he or she understands that improvements must match benchmarks or the employee will fail to meet expectations and be terminated.

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    Make a plan on how you will proceed without this employee. Think about that job’s responsibilities and be ready to assign them to someone else.

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    Prepare to fire. Be sure to choose somewhere private but always keep in mind firing one employee should not hurt interest of co-workers working that employee.

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    Ready (your opening statement). Tell the employee the purpose of the meeting within 30 seconds of them entering the room. By dragging it out, you are just torturing the employee and yourself. Try something like, “Mark, I’ve called you in here because of your consistent failure to meet benchmarks set for your position.”

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    Aim. Don’t allow it to go on. The employee is now pretty likely to be aware of your ultimate purpose, so take aim early and tell him or her the truth without going into a lot of details. You don’t need to delineate all of your reasons – those can be stated in a letter if you so desire, and frankly, the less you say, the better. “I know we’ve discussed the same issues a number of times. Despite repeated warnings and counseling, you really haven’t made sufficient improvements.”

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    Fire. Again, just spit it out. Don’t allow the employee to turn it into a discussion or argument. “Because of this, I’m letting you go.”