4 Best Practices for Terminating an Employee

Terminating an employee is never an easy thing to do but, unfortunately, most businesses do have to deal with it at some point. It’s probably the least favorite part of most manager’s jobs – especially if you are terminating an employee for uncomfortable reasons. Added to the inherent discomfort are potential legal mistakes that can lead to serious issues if you don’t handle the situation properly.

However, preparing yourself with the knowledge of how to terminate an employee before the situation arises can help.

Best Practices for Terminating an Employee

If you run a small office and may have to fire an employee at some point in your career, here are 4 best practices to ensure that you make the best of the situation.

  1. Document your reasoning for termination

Make sure that you have a fair basis for terminating an employee. You should have everything properly documented, from the employee’s initial hiring contract to reports of their job performance to detailed reports of the grounds for termination. This is your best defense in both preventing lawsuits and also the best way to maintain the integrity of your business reputation.

  1. Tell them in person

Of course it’s easier to deliver bad news via phone or email, but the most ethical way to do it is in person. That way they have a chance to ask questions and better understand why they are being fired. The meeting should include only the manager, the employee and, if you have an HR department, one other HR rep who can act as witness in case the employee claims they were unfairly treated. Having another person in the room can also help discourage any negative or abusive reactions from employees.

  1. Be well versed on employment laws for your state

Employment laws vary depending on your state and how many employees you have at your business. Consult an employment law attorney if you don’t have an HR department in order to make sure you’re in compliance with all of the right laws. You want to do what’s best for your business, but you also need to treat your employees fairly.

  1. Treat the employee with respect

In addition to staying compliant with the law, on a more human level you should be sure to treat your employee with dignity. This means not waiting until Friday afternoon to fire them – that just leads into a weekend of feeling cut off from resources. Don’t think of your feelings first – you might be tempted to make jokes or lighten the mood, but remember terminating an employee is a very difficult situation. End on a positive note by expressing confidence in them for future roles, rather than dwelling on negative behaviors or faults that may have led to their termination.

You might try your best to avoid them, but terminations are simply part of the job for most managers. Following these best practices can help cushion the situation for the employee and shield your business from legal repercussions.


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