How to Fire an Employee: 6 Tips to Make the Process Kinder

5 min readMar 29, 2022

Sometimes, firing an employee is the only option for your organization. However, if you have ever fired someone, you are probably aware of how hard it is. Most managers would consider dismissing an employee as a terrible experience and a job they really hate to do.

Still, in some cases, without terminating an unproductive person’s employment or making necessary cuts, we cannot continue to keep our business productive and the workplace healthy.

Here are several essential tips that are able to make this uncomfortable process smoother and help you to fire an employee gracefully.

1. Be clear and concise

When it’s time to let an employee go, you should be clear and concise. It’s crucial what you say and how you decide to break the news. Terminating a person’s work, you should know exactly why you are doing this.

Prepare specific examples and the proper documentation, which include performance reports and different applicable financial forms like unemployment insurance or health insurance.

You need to be firm and clear while firing in order to make an employee sure that there is no room for further discussions. Besides, if you deliver the news on termination in a very bush and gentle way, the employee may just not understand what you mean.

At the same time, make it short. You just need to tell the employee when they are expected to leave the office and explain how much severance pay and which other benefits you may provide. Explain the general reason for firing in short but don’t go into detail. Remember that you don’t want to start an argument with the dismissed employee, listening to their excuses and defense. In case of complications, say, “I am sorry, but I have already made up my mind.”

2. Don’t surprise the employee

Indeed, firing unproductive workers with poor performance shouldn’t become a surprise for them (or to anyone else). Instead, you have to hold regular meetings and employee reviews in order to demonstrate the areas which need improvement and give expert recommendations. Besides, such meetings don’t have to be extremely formal; they just have to make unproductive employees appraise their work and refocus on its improvement.

Although legally, you may be able to fire the employee at any time, and for any legal reason, it’s definitely not a good way to operate the business. Terminating workers’ employment for their dissatisfying performance with no feedback would not do a great business practice.

Moreover, if the firing is due to a specific business model change or necessary cuts, you should give the affected employee as much care and attention as possible.

Fire early in the week if you are sure that things cannot change for the better. At the same time, never fire the employee on a Friday, since they can overthink about their dismissal during the weekend and come to work the next Monday, ready for a dispute, a fight, or something worse.

3. Do it in person

Dismissing an employee is going to be uncomfortable in any way. However, you should do it face to face, not over the phone or via email. The fact is that non-verbal language plays a too critical role in communication to be ignored. The employees will pick up a lot more information if there is someone in front of them. Thus, they will see your body language, feel the energy during the conversation, and react reasonably. Also, firing someone in person is a sign of courtesy from your side.

Moreover, the person delivering the news should be a direct manager of the employee. It demonstrates personal care and a certain level of intimacy. Indeed, if employees are dismissed simply by HR or even someone they have never interacted with, it sets a completely different tone.

Besides, experts recommend having another person in the room during the meeting with the dismissed employee. For example, you may invite someone from the Human Resources department. Firstly, this person would serve as a witness and would be able to confirm you acted legally and ethically in case complications from the side of the employee arise. Secondly, the HR representative can help a dismissed employee with any further questions regarding the termination of work.

4. Don’t humiliate the employee

While firing the employee, always treat them with dignity. Terminating someone’s work in front of the audience is certainly a bad idea. By doing this, you would not only humiliate the dismissed employee but also risk draining the morale out of the other workers.

Instead, always fire an employee in private behind closed doors. Deliver the news only after your other employees leave. Take into consideration that the dismissed employee wouldn’t be happy to leave the office in front of his or her colleagues.

5. Be prepared for emotions and offer a soft landing, if possible

Each dismissed employee would take such unpleasant news in a different way. Some would stay calm and quiet while others might demonstrate a wide range of emotions: from shock to anger. It is natural, and you have to show empathy. However, at the same time, be careful about any physical contact.

Moreover, don’t use harsh or mean phrases during the process of firing someone. Keep in mind that you want to upset neither an employee nor yourself. Instead, emphasize that you have made this decision for sure and wish the dismissed employee luck in further achievements.

Sometimes, you have to terminate a person’s employment due to necessary cuts in order to keep your business productive and the workplace healthy in the conditions of the financial crisis within the company. Therefore, if you are firing an employee for non-performance issues, make sure that this transition is seamless. For instance, give the employee a month or two to find a new job, offer a consultation with HR, or recommend some sources of job search.

6. Always be honest with other employees

Never leave your employees in the dark if something is happening inside the company. You definitely don’t want the gossip about workers starting to lose their jobs to spread. That kind of rumor may bring damage both to the worried employees and your reputation within the company. Therefore, it’s better to make all the necessary cuts at once. Dismiss more people at once instead of keeping doing it over three or five stages.

Remember that your employees want to feel safe and comfortable. Asking whether they should expect further layoffs, they don’t want to hear their manager saying, “I don’t know yet, we’ll see.” Thus, when you have made all the necessary cuts within your organization, offer a sense of security to remaining employees, and stay honest and transparent.

What is more, it’s essential to clearly communicate to employees that one of their colleagues is dismissed and why. You have to notify them of important changes in workload or present new opportunities available. However, don’t go into detail in order not to make yourself a center of gossip. Always remember to stay professional during the process of firing someone.


Indeed, no one likes to fire people. However, being an employer involves having to let employees go. Take several practical and emotional considerations into account while terminating an unproductive person’s work. Always be clear with the dismissed employee and don’t surprise or humiliate them. Fire someone in person. Be prepared for emotions and offer a soft landing, if possible. Finally, be honest to the remaining employees. These essential six tips would make delivering the news kinder.

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