You’re the boss of a dynamic team at work, and you’ve recently realized that you need to let your weakest performer go. It’s not budget cuts or staff layoffs—the employee in question, Daniel, has consistently come into work late and missed deadlines, and his negative attitude is affecting your team. In line with recommended practices, you’ve already given Daniel a PIP (Performance Improvement Plan) with measurable goals for him to achieve, which spanned a timeline of 60 days. Daniel’s performance has not improved during that time, and his attitude and habits continue to have a negative impact at work.
It’s time to fire Daniel. You’ve kept documentation of his performance, you’ve notified HR, and you’re ready to go with an action plan for his termination. Here’s what to keep in mind when you need to fire someone as efficiently and compassionately as possible.
1. Just do it.
This may sound blunt and/or obvious, but once you’re ready and set on firing an employee, do it as soon as possible. Don’t let nerves, guilt, business relationships or personal feelings stand between you and managing an effective team. This is business, and the employee in question is not performing his job duties well, and it’s having an impact on business. Do it as soon as you possibly can, and keep in mind that if you’re actually afraid of how the employee is going to respond to being fired, that’s a big sign that this person should not be on your team.
On that note: if you are concerned the employee may actually be dangerous, be sure to notify security in advance to have them on standby or outside the room during the firing.
2. But not on a Friday.
Firing someone on a Friday may seem like the right move — the terminated employee will have the weekend to recover and be able to hit the ground running on Monday! — but in reality, being fired on a Friday means the employee worked all week, even when you already knew he or she was about to be fired, and will now have a weekend to sit and get angry about it. He or she also may have questions for HR, and if it’s the weekend, HR will not be available as a resource. For these reasons, it is frequently recommended that the best day and time to fire someone is early in the day, early in the week — say, Monday or Tuesday morning, at a low-traffic time.
3. Keep it short.
When you call an employee into your office to terminate their job, even if they already suspect what’s coming, it will still be a shock. You don’t owe them extended explanations or an apology — keep the discussion short and professional. You don’t want to give the employee the idea that you don’t want to fire them but are being forced to do so by those higher in the chain of command. You’re the boss. You are firing the employee.
- Tell the employee they’re being terminated, effective immediately.
- Tell them they’re being fired “for cause” but don’t go into detail. Explain that the decision is final.
- Explain when they’ll need to leave the office.
- Talk to them about severance pay and benefits.
- Thank them for their time at the company.
- Explain that they’ll need to go to their desk, gather their things and be escorted out.
- Mention that all passwords, email and company documents will become inaccessible, effective immediately.
4. Be kind.
There’s no need to be rude or vindictive, even if you’ve had less-than-pleasant interactions with the employee previously, or even if you’re secretly delighted to be done dealing with this person. Allow them some dignity — don’t rehash all the things they’ve done wrong, and let them say goodbye to their coworkers if they can do it quickly and quietly. Don’t force them to finish out the workday; let them gather their things and leave. Tell your team that the employee in question is no longer with the company, and that that’s all you can say.
Firing, like hiring, is an art. Plan ahead, keep it simple and short, and you’ll be able to manage your team with a fairness and civility that everyone will respect.