How to fire an employee gracefully

Dismissing an employee in a good style

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A guide for employers on how to dismiss someone gently

One of the most difficult jobs you have to do as a manager is dismissing an employee. You want to do it in a humane way and it’s very important to fire an employee gracefully, with compassion. If you mishandle terminating an employee, you may experience a backlash from the rest of your people. How you treat the person you’ve fired will impact the way the rest of the team perform, feel about working in your company and the trust within the team. Those who are still with you, usually feel insecure when someone gets fired. They may also feel it was unfair when they don’t know the reasons, especially if they think that the dismissed colleague was doing fine or was a likable person. When you have to fire someone, do it gently and have a plan. So how to fire an employee gracefully? 

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The right way to dismiss an employee

When you come to realise that you’ve hired the wrong person or you’re no longer the right match for each other, you need to take a firm decision and have an action plan. Here are a few tips on how to go about dismissing an employee gracefully.

How to fire an employee gracefully

1. Be decisive

There is nothing worse than changing your mind about keeping an employee who isn’t performing or letting them go. Once you’ve taken the decision that you have to part ways, be decisive and do it quickly. Don’t have an hour’s conversation about everything only to tell them by the end that they are getting fired. 

2. Have a plan

Prepare an exit plan before you communicate the news. You need to know who will take over their work and what you need to get from them before they leave. Have a list of things like passwords, documents etc. and have a plan how you remove access to all the company tools. 

3. Meet in person

It’s not easy, but this is the right way to do it if you want to dismiss someone gracefully. Communicate and explain the reason. Think it through before and be fair.

4. Deliver the decision

Remember, it’s not a meeting to let them negotiate whether they can stay, but to communicate the decision and help them acknowledge the situation by explaining the reasons. If the situation allows, ask them to help you with transferring their access, documents and duties. If you want to be supportive and if you can, recommend them for other roles in other organisations. They may be a great fit elsewhere. 

5. Remove access

Sometimes, even if you don’t expect it, things can go messy. When this happens, it’s too late if they still had access to company data and emails. The dismissed employee may steal customer data, send out angry emails to customers or colleagues or do other harm to your business. Unfortunately it does happen in real life and you really want to avoid such trouble. Change passwords, redirect their email, etc. 

6. Communicate the reason to the team

How to communicate to your team that you’ve fired their colleague and what to say? You can send and email or have a quick meeting. You need to be open about it to build trust with your team. Reinforce the company values and connect them with the reasons why the person was dismissed. Explain that they weren’t performing at the level required by your standards. You need to give them reasons, as people will make up their own stories if they are left to guess. And finally, although you may feel like doing it, don’t blame them for anything. 

You help them maximise their potential
Final notes

Dismissal doesn’t have to mean a disaster. Remember, that at the end of the day you are helping them to get freedom and explore better opportunities. If things weren’t working, they weren’t happy in your company anyway. Now they are liberated to find a happier place. It also doesn’t mean that the person is useless, they just weren’t the right fit for you, at least not at the current stage. They will find a place when they will be a better fit and will be able to use their potential better. 

So these are my tips on how to fire an employee with compassion and class. How do you handle dismissing employees? What is the most difficult part of it for you? 

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2 thoughts on “How to Fire an Employee Gracefully”

  1. Employment termination isn’t just bad for that individual— it’s also bad for the other employees. Other employees don’t know if or when they’re going to be on the chopping block. And, your employees could have relationships with the fired employee. If you fire an employee in front of everyone, you risk draining the morale out of the other employees. When you need to fire an employee, you and someone from Human Resources should be the only two people in the room with them. If you don’t have an HR department or representative, grab a witness, like a trusted employee or even your business’s lawyer if applicable.

    1. Thank you for your comment! I absolutely agree, firing someone in front of other employees is an unnecessary humiliation. I also agree that the rest of the team shouldn’t feel threatened. What would you suggest a manager could do to make others feel safe?

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