Terminating an employee a difficult job for most bosses


Although Donald Trump may be confident pointing his finger at his apprentices and announcing “you’re fired,” research shows that terminating an employee can be a difficult job.

The reality is that many small operations do not have a human resources department, which leaves the owner with a responsibility they may or may not be prepared for. While nothing can make the process painless, a well thought out strategy can minimize your legal risks.

The following is a list of tips to consider before terminating a member of your staff.

  • Prepare for the meeting. Write out what you will say and rehearse it. By being prepared you will expedite the termination process in a professional manner.
  • Have another person witness the conversation. It is a good idea to have an observer detailing the conversation in writing.

    Although termination can be done in person or in writing, when possible you should do it in person. Companies like Oracle and Radio Shack have both earned bad press when they used overnight delivery and e-mail to terminate employees.

  • Keep the meeting short and to the point. Don’t over talk the situation or your words could be used against you. Everything that needs to be said can be done in about 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Collect company property such as laptops, credit cards, cell phones, files, client files, keys and identification badges, and change passwords, remote computer access, and telephone codes, etc. This would be a good time to cover any confidentiality or noncompete clauses.
  • Keep good records detailing employee performance reviews, evaluations, feedback, and warnings; you may need them to ward off claims of wrongful termination.
  • Respect the employee’s privacy. Meet with the employee in a conference room or some other neutral place. After the conversation, allow the employee to collect their personal belongings and leave with dignity. Other employees will wonder what happened, so be prepared to make a very brief professional statement.
  • Don’t procrastinate. Unproductive employees cost the business money. But more importantly, morale suffers, and good employees leave.
  • Pay the employee their final paycheck, including any vacation pay, etc., due to them.
  • Provide the employee with appropriate documents required by law such as COBRA, HIPP, etc.
  • If you are concerned about a possible wrongful termination lawsuit, consult an attorney.

If all of this sounds too daunting of a task, for any number of reasons, you can always decide to hire the services of a coach or consultant. A coach can be a great asset in that they can help script the conversation and keep you on track during the delivery.

If you would rather insulate yourself totally from the termination process, then maybe outsourcing is something you should consider.

Outsourced terminations are a popular choice, especially if the party to be discharged is a family member, long-term employee, a legally protected class, or they hold an administrative position within the company.

Unfortunately, it is sometimes necessary to discharge an employee. The best advice is to have a formal termination process in place and be professional while executing it.

Terminating an employee is usually a difficult process for everyone involved. Stay calm and composed because the actions you take in the heat of the moment make an important statement to other employees about the way your company values employees.


Michelle P. Simms is a personal development coach. Her philosophy is to develop personally, as a leader, and as a professional. Michelle works with individuals worldwide at www.SimmsInternational.com.

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