The hardest part of being a manager is having to let go of a subordinate. I have done it before and to tell you the truth, the first time it is hard, the subsequent times that I do let go of staff isn’t easier just because I have done it before. This conversation is gut-wrenching since you know that such a simple act will affect a person’s self-esteem, livelihood, and career.

Letting go of an employee also affects your team members. It not only changes work assignments but it additionally makes your subordinates question your judgment as a boss as well as their job security. Due to these emotional undercurrents, most managers allow for the firing process be driven by anxiety instead of the intellect. This, in turn, makes it the tough process even worse.


When you have done your job right and carefully followed the process you won’t have a reason to clarify the why. You ex-employee already knows the reason. Regardless of the number of people you’ve had to let go in the past, the process will still feel uncomfortable thus avoid talking a lot. The little you talk the better as the employee will, in turn, retain their dignity. Thus be professional and keep it brief. Therefore, you don’t feel sorry for being straightforward – at that instant, the employee may not be interested in hearing any platitude.

Since firing someone is very emotionally charged, you may end up acting counterproductively. So as to avoid this, below are guidelines for moments when letting go of an employee is necessary:

Have A Paper Trail

Ensure that firing your employee is the last result in a thoughtful, careful, transparent and fair process that begun long before the real firing. This means, if a dismissal is due to poor performance, then it needs to happen after several performance discussions, documented actions, and plans. If it’s because of restructuring or job elimination, it should also follow conversations, reasonable “fair warning” and announcements.

Of importance is that letting go of an employee shouldn’t come as a surprise. The HR function in most companies has procedures on how the process needs to unfold.

Be Certain

Get to the “dismissal meeting” ready to address the useful logistical questions that employees will have concerning leaving their job: things like official end date, severance arrangements, if there are opportunities somewhere else within the company, availability of career counseling and what will happen to their benefits are some things you need to be ready to address. For this, you need to ask for help from HR to ensure the answers are offered.

During the meeting be prepared to listen however do not react. It can be traumatic to lose a job, and the employee might display a variety of emotions, which may be directed at you. Try hard not to get involved by responding.

Listen to them with respect and then guide the individual towards the reasonable actuality of moving on. Suggest talking with them later once they’ve calmed down, or you may request a qualified counsellor from HR to join you.

Don’t Argue

Many people who get sacked are somewhat quiet. Some get angry while others argue and afterwards get angry. Regardless of their reaction, don’t get into an argument with them.

When you’re convinced about your choice and have the evidence to back it up, no argument is necessary. Simply say, “Susan, I’ll be glad to discuss this as long as you’d like, but you need to realize that nothing we talk about will change this decision.”

Discussing or arguing about the fairness of the decision mostly makes your employee feel a lot worse and it may put you at risk of legal issues should you talk without thinking. Of course, let your ex-employee vent, but avoid debates and arguments.


After the sacking, talk to your team concerning the procedure, the reasoning, and its implication on them. This needs to be done within the confidentiality limits. In some situations, they will completely understand your conclusion. In others, they might have an incomplete picture. All the same, you have to respect their emotions, and thereafter assist in redirecting their focus back to work.

Don’t Offer Assistance When You Can’t

When firing an employee for any reason there are few ways you could assist them land another job. (When you are letting them go because of a lack of work, definitely there are several ways you may be able to assist.)

Therefore, don’t offer well-meant platitudes such as, “If there is anything I may do for you, do let me know…”. Oftentimes, there’s almost nothing for you to do. However in the rare situations where you may be of help, be clear about what you are prepared to do or can do.

Otherwise, simply wrap up by saying, “Even if this didn’t work out, I do wish you the very best.” Shake hands and then let the person depart.

Afterward accept that you will feel awful, regardless of how much the person deserved to be dismissed. You never get used to feeling awful after you have played a part in changing a person’s life for the worst. Unfortunately, trying to avoid the anxiety related to firing only worsens the situation. Therefore, if it has to be done — do it right.

Do you agree? Have you fired someone or been fired before? Please share your experiences with us in the comments below.

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20 replies on “How To Fire Somebody Right

  1. Check out the movie “Up In The Air” with George Clooney and Anna Kendrick. It’s about this subject you are talking about. His character goes into companies and fires/lays off people for a living.

    I have seen coworkers fired and it puts others on edge. A very uncomfortable, unsettling feeling.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great recommendations! Going to check it out on iTunes this weekend. Thanks a lot, Tony.

      If the firing process is done wrongly, it can create a bad vibe in the work environment, people feeling less secure in their jobs. However, if it is getting rid of a pest or a troublemaker, it can actually cause relief to the people working with him.


  2. Thank you so much.

    As a retail Manager, I have had to terminate a number of employees.

    I found that it came as no surprise to them as they had previously been formally warned.

    I also found the direct approach to be best: Name…. Your performance has not sufficiently improved; you are still {what they are , or are not doing]; as a consequence I am terminating your employment , effective at once.

    I found it prudent not to engage in a long personal conversation.

    A Very important POST, thank you so very much,


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us, Patrick. Working retail is a tough job and has many high turnover rates. Long hours and missing holidays must be tough on you.


  3. Excellent advice for a very difficult, emotionally charged situation. Working in a human resources position, I’ve witnessed (and committed) some very bad firing practices.
    For example, because I felt bad for firing somebody once, I made the process much more drawn out than it needed to be, thus further extending the pain that the ex-employee felt.
    Thanks for such practical, useful advice on this topic.

    Liked by 1 person

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