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Firing for Non-Performance

Few activities in business are more difficult than firing. In fact, I would argue that if it ever becomes too easy, then something is wrong. However, if you are a manager long enough, eventually it becomes inevitable. You will have to terminate someone at some point. How do you do this in the best manner possible? That is what we will discuss in this article. 

Below is an outline of considerations and actions to take prior to firing, after firing, and during the actual conversation. Although it’s not a pleasant situation to think about, it helps both parties if the manager is well-prepared in advance. 

Actions to take PRIOR to firing: 

  • Ask yourself:   - Is it possible there was a miscommunication or misunderstanding? If so, let’s correct that first before making the firing decision.  - Is it possible that recent issues are more in the forefront of your mind, but not truly indicative of overall performance? Let’s make sure we aren’t just frustrated with the team member at this moment.  - Has the employee been given at least one chance to be told what is wrong and to make corrections?  Everyone deserves at least one opportunity. 

  • List out...  - ...what needs to happen prior to the employee leaving, such as returning keys and equipment, getting vital information, and other important points.  - ... what needs to happen after the employee leaves, such as changing passwords, assigning critical tasks, and informing payroll of the termination. 

  • Decide...  - ... how the termination will be explained to the employee.  - ... how the remaining compensation and benefits will be handled.  - ... if severance is appropriate. (This could be an entirely separate article.)  - ... when the conversation will occur. 

  • Prepare...  - ... a short document listing the details of final compensation, benefits end dates, and other critical details that the employee will need to know and may not hear in the heat of the moment.  - ... a short document listing their end date for them to sign at termination. 

How to have the conversation: 

  • Do it privately and in-person.  A best practice is to have another manager present as well if possible. 

  • Start by stating that this is difficult. Your facial expression should reflect this. 

  • Be firm but be kind. Keep the conversation brief and to the point. Avoid getting into an argument or long discussion.  

  • If possible, go ahead and ask for any items to return such as keys or equipment. 

  • Give them the final compensation details document you have prepared and go over it with them. 

  • Have them sign the termination date document you prepared. If they won’t sign, then you as the manager should make a notation to that effect. 

Actions to take after the conversation has occurred: 

  • Terminated employees should not need to be “escorted out” unless there has been history that would lead you to believe they should be; however, it is always a good idea to loosely assist them with leaving the office so that unnecessary conversations don’t happen on the way out due to unusually high emotions. 

  • Tell other team members about the change as soon as possible yourself. In-person after the departure is best. Once again, make sure your emotions are appropriate. 

  • Complete the “after exit” list that you prepared earlier. 

  • Document the termination details in your personnel files. 

  • While it’s fresh on your mind, document what could have been handled better (if anything) for next time. Unfortunately, terminations are a fact of life in business. 

In full transparency, I struggled with whether I should write this blog post because it’s such a delicate issue for many people.  It can seem heartless to put this in writing. However, the truth is that firings are inevitable at some point, and the better prepared the employer is to treat the exiting employee with dignity, the easier it is for both sides. 

If we can ever be of assistance, please reach out to us on our Contact page. 

Mark Goldman 



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