How to Fire an Employee Respectfully
The workplace can be the source of great relationships and learning, but also of unpleasant situations. A particularly complex one is when an employee has to be let go of; this is extremely uncomfortable both for the employee and for the person doing the firing. It is very important to know how to fire someone properly, legally and respectfully, showing empathy and understanding.
If you don't know where to start to let someone go without undermining them, here at oneHOWTO we have some tips on how to fire an employee respectfully, in a professional and empathetic manner.
Being respectful and considerate means taking active part in your employees' work. Before firing someone, it's only honest to have meetings with them, get to know them and offer some feedback. You may even help them up their performance and avoid having to fire them altogether. Be transparent and thoughtful, and always take note of meetings.
When the firing is due to restructuring or downsizing, you should also let the employees know about the situation. Even if you don't give too many details - and be careful with starting "someone is about to be fired" rumors - it is only decent to let employees know whether they should be making big plans or not.
If for some reason your company has come to the decision to fire an employee, it is extremely important to not share this information with anyone. The employee will hear about it eventually, and it will only create unnecessary discomfort, stress and self-doubt: fair warning with the chance to improve is always best. Since the employee is the one who will be most affected by the change, it's honest to let them know first.
Once you have made the decision, try to arrange a meeting as soon as possible with the employee. Beforehand, you should have prepared answers to their probable questions: Who will substitute them? What about that client? Do they have severance arrangements available?
Inform them without delay about your decision: do not procrastinate the moment, and when you do fire them, do not let the situation drag. Be direct and to the point, and do not waste time on small talk.
It is extremely important that you fire the employee in person, face to face. Some bosses have fired employees by email, phone call and even by voicemail. This feels disrespectful, as if you couldn't even bother to make five minutes to talk to them. If you have made the choice yourself, don't delegate the responsibility to someone who had no voice in the matter.
It is necessary to speak to the employee in a respectful way, regardless of the reasons that caused the dismissal. You must always maintain control of the situation and ensure everything goes well. In these cases, respect means being honest, empathizing with their feelings and not use the moment to give unwanted advice on how things may have been different. When the employee reacts to being fired, it's more important to listen than to speak.
It is important for the employee to know the reason for their dismissal, which you should always communicate professionally and using the right words. For example, if someone is particularly troublesome, you can say something like "we feel that your attitude does not conform to the guidelines of the team and the company".
However, explaining why does not mean overwhelming the employee with details and examples of what they did wrong: this would be an obvious show of a lack of empathy. Your explanation must be to the point.
The employee may want to argue against your decision or try to alter it. Again, it is necessary to maintain control over the situation: you must be willing to listen, but once you have made the choice there is no turning back. If you were not sure whether to fire the person or not, you should not tell them about it.
When you explain to your employee that they have been fired, show through your language and attitude that, as much as it pains you, it is final. You are informing them of your decision, not deciding with them.
Avoid phrases that sound like hypocritical clichés, such as "it has been very difficult for me to make this decision" or "I know how you must be feeling now". Even if you have been fired yourself before, you don't know your employee's exact situation or what they are thinking. Assuming you do sounds condescending and will create a negative situation.
If your relationship with the employee is not really a close one, be simply diplomatic and polite. You should always wish the person the best in the future.
Communicate the news preferably in the evening or later on in the day, so that the employee can go home without having to endure workplace rumors or feel that they're being pitied. Firing an employee early in the day will only make them feel progressively worse.
Every person is different, and you can't be sure how they will react. It is normal and common for someone who has just been fired to be upset; if you want them to go home, help them gather their things or make arrangements so that they can come back later to get them. Most HR experts recommend minimizing the fired employee's contact with the rest of the workers.
In many companies, it is customary to fire employees with someone from Human Resources in the wings to provide the worker with the numbers relating to their compensation payments, wages, pension contributions, etc. Always provide your employees with the correct information: be forthcoming, helpful and honest.
If the situation derails and you feel a conflict may appear, the person from HR will act as a mediator and get the discussion back on the right track. If they aren't able to fix it, they will be your witness that you treated your employee respectfully and professionally.
Don't forget to manage the employee's internal email address, passwords, and access to private content in general. You must take responsibility for that, and above all never make the fired employee delete their company profiles themselves.
After firing an employee, discuss the process and the consequences for the rest of their team. Be transparent, explain your reasoning and help them make up for the loss. Above all, try to empathize with them. If they are anxious they may be next, clear their doubts with honesty and clarity.
Do you have any tips on how to fire an employee respectfully? Do you have advice on what NOT to do? Tell us in the comments section!
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- Avoid falling into arguments and discussions about the decision.
- If the employee gets frustrated, keep control of the situation to prevent the problem from escalating.