Firing – Do’s and Don’ts

Dec 10, 2021
Firing – Do’s and Don’ts

This is one of the tough roads that leaders walk and there is really nothing easy about this process.  The longer an employee is with you, the deeper the connection and the more difficult it is to sever the working relationship.  

It’s been a tough choice to make, and you have come to the realization that there is no way around it.  You have to let them go.  For whatever reason, it has become apparent that the team member is not truly a part of the team nor are they likely to align, despite your best efforts.  Maybe you are also aware of the damage to the rest of the team that is caused by keeping this employee on.

Here are some tips to make sure it goes smoothly:


  • Make preparations- Have the final paycheck/compensation ready, secure company property including IP, keys, credit card.
  • Create your mantra and be ready to repeat it, for example, “I’m sorry, you are just not the right fit for the company.”  This is all that needs to be said about the termination, nothing more.
  • Go over the severance package (s), very quickly and high level and provide a written version for them to take home.  There may very likely be some shell shock so too much information may leave them irritable.
  • Plan for the worst and hope for the best.  We may think we know someone well, yet there may be other factors in the soon-to-be ex-employee’s life that we don’t know about which, combined with this experience, may cause them to behave unpredictably.  The person may crack and the behavior may be nasty.  Prepare for this as best you can even to the extent of having security personnel at the ready, if deemed necessary.


  • Explain it- this will lead to more confrontation.  Understand that the employee may want to engage in a debate, after all this information is new to them and the sudden news hasn’t been digested yet.  Don’t go there, stick to your mantra.  Remember that what you say can be used against you if this goes to court so less is more.
  • Empathize- you may feel terrible about this and it may feel like you are losing a part of your family.  Move through this on your own and do not explain how you see this from their perspective.  This will open up the door to more problematic conversations.  Keep this conversation to yourself and discuss it with your spouse.
  • Ignore the reaction from your team-they need to see you strong right now because they are wondering if their head might be next on the chopping block.  They need to feel from you that the right decision was made without ignoring their concerns, they need to understand.  Pay attention to the climate from the rest of the team immediately following the event and consider holding a company wide meeting to reiterate expectations of each other without pointing fingers and blaming the one who has been let go.  

Overall, remember that you are releasing this person to embrace a new chapter in their lives and that nothing lasts forever.  In these difficult situations I have found talking through this with a trusted business leader is really helpful.  Remember that when one door closes, another one opens and you are taking the initiative to become ‘unstuck’ and free up a block.

In my experience, I have found often that once the dust has settled after a termination, the individual thrives in new ways and the team is better for it.  Though this isn’t always the case or evident immediately, try and find solace in the notion that we are all on our individual paths to learn and develop at our own pace.