How to fire an employee is something rarely taught in business school or management classes, but it is essential to leading a department or organization. Often, employers fail to own up to job elimination as a serious management responsibility. That can lead to confusion and unhappy workers. To effectively fire someone, you not only need to be honest and direct but also compassionate.
Plan out your job elimination talk ahead of time. A little preparation can go a long way toward streamlining the firing process. List the reasons the employee is being fired. Draw up responses to possible questions the employee might have. Consider unanticipated or extreme reactions the employee might have to the news and plan accordingly. No one wants to be caught off guard by an angry employee or one who breaks into tears.
Be direct in your conversation with the employee. Avoid easing into the topic of the employee's job being eliminated; come out and say it. Tell the employee exactly why he is being fired. Avoid creating cover stories or giving vague reasons for the decision. In the long run, honesty is the best policy and will help you and the employee move on after the elimination.
Keep the conversation short. Tell the employee she is being eliminated and tell her why. Briefly answer any questions she has about the elimination or the future and then end the conversation with finality. By taking control of the conversation, not only do you get your point across, you leave little room for an employee to react in an extreme manner or demand to speak to others in the company.
Be compassionate. Just because you are direct does not mean you should be cold toward the employee. Admit that job elimination is a difficult process. Make it clear you are emotionally affected by the situation and that the employee is not alone. Offer to help the employee find a new job or find solid ground in the industry if you can feasibly do so; this will help soften the blow while reiterating to the employee that this situation is not personal.
Thank the employee for his contribution to the company, if it is reasonable to do so. Highlight the positive points of his time at the organization and wish him well for the future.
Plan out what you will say to the other employees in your company or department. If possible, acknowledge the employee's contribution and build a sense of group loss, rather than deliver news of the elimination from on high. Use the experience to build camaraderie between yourself and your other employees.
Michael Batton Kaput began writing professionally in 2009. He is an editor at two magazines and a freelance writer. He has been published in "Egypt Today," Egypt's leading current affairs magazine, and "Business Today Egypt," Egypt's number one English-language business magazine. He attended Denison University where he earned a degree in political science and English literature.