As a freelance writer, I know that there are times when I need to fire a client. But what happens if you’re a business owner and you need to fire one of your workers? That can be a hard choice to make. On top of that, you need to make sure you are following the law as it relates to firing an employee.
If you know you need to let someone go, here are five things you should know:
1. Stop and Think
Your first step is to stop and think about the situation. Even if you know that someone needs to be fired due to a zero-tolerance situation, don’t say something in the moment. You need to be calm and collected when delivering any sort of bad news like this. On top of that, you want to make sure your ducks are in a row before firing an employee. Make sure you understand the situation and prepare ahead of time. You might be angry, but you shouldn’t actually fire someone in that anger.
2. Double Check the Proper Process
Make sure you understand the process from a legal and policy standpoint. Check with your human resources department before moving forward, or consult with an employment attorney. You also need to be clear about the firing offense. There is a difference between someone being laid off and being fired. You need to know the difference and be clear about what is happening.
3. Have a Witness
When it’s time to deliver the bad news, you need to have someone with you. The best option is to have a witness from human resources or an attorney nearby. You shouldn’t fire someone in private because you don’t want to turn it into their word against yours. A professional witness who can help keep things calm is important when you fire someone.
4. Say as Little as Possible
If you have followed procedures, and your company policies are clear, the person being fired probably already knows it’s coming — and why. Say as little as you can. If you need to cite a specific law or company policy, do so. But don’t say much more than that. You might be tempted to try to go into long explanations, but that’s rarely a good idea. You could say something you’ll regret. Also, don’t get sucked into an argument when firing an employee. If you need to, practice what you will say ahead of time. Your witness from human resources or the company’s attorney can help keep you on track.
5. Avoid Offering to Help
Chances are that you can’t help when firing an employee. In many cases, you really shouldn’t help. Avoid offering to help the now-former employee. You might feel bad for the person, and you might wish you could help, but chances are that you can’t. Hollow offers of help — especially if you can’t back it up — only make things worse and could put you in a compromising situation.
It’s never easy to fire an employee. If you have to do it, though, make sure you do it right.