How To Terminate Employment

We hope it will never happen, but eventually in your management life you will come to the point where you have to let someone go. It’s never a happy time, but you can make it less painful for all concerned by following a few guidelines.

Before you take any action, ask yourself:

How would I be feeling if my boss came to me and said ‘you’re fired!’?

Write down a list of words that would describe your feelings. If you were in that position, how would you like your boss to handle it? Write down the way you would like to be treated and what you would want your boss to say. Now write down your feelings about having to fire someone. Keep in mind how you would like to be treated in similar circumstances.

Script the first two sentences of the conversation, using the words and feelings you have noted. For example, “This is a very difficult time, and I’ve been worried about sharing this news. But it is bad news, I’m afraid.” If it’s a lay-off situation, you might say something like, “I’ve been advised that there have to be some terminations, and your name is on the list”. If it’s a poor performance issue, you might say, “We’ve discussed our expectations about your performance, and unfortunately they are still not being met. It saddens me (or whatever your feelings are) that I will have to terminate your employment here”.

Be prepared for their reaction, as it may rock back and forth between shock, resistance, anger or more. You need to keep the conversation moving, so don’t get into too deep a conversation about the justifications of the decision. You need to get the employee to the ‘acceptance’ stage of the discussion before you can move on. I don’t need to tell you that you should have gone through all the legal and logistical aspects of the dismissal before this stage, but make sure you have everything cleared with HR or your lawyer before resorting to this final resort.

Thanks again


Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Training   

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Updated on: 6 December, 2010

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