5 Ways to Fire… Without Feeling Like a Jerk

Oct 13, 2020

Having been in HR for 20 years, I have fired and laid off dozens of people. Let’s be honest, it is never a fun day when someone is fired - for you or the person you are firing.

But… it doesn’t have to be so painfully awful if you remember a few things to “keep the human” in the interaction. I pride myself in having conducted employee terminations in a way which preserved the employee’s dignity and always remembered this “human factor.”

Today I want to share with you 5 ways to fire… and not feel like a jerk when doing so.

  1. SAY THANKS: Sincerely thank them for their work. You don’t need to say good or great work if it isn’t sincere – but remember to thank them for the work they did! Don’t discredit that they did give their time and energy to the job for a certain time and for that, you are thanking them.

  2. NO SURPRISES: Termination day should not come as a surprise! To avoid this, ask yourself the question – Did I notify them about what the performance issues were? Did I give them specific things I’d like to see improved before deciding on termination? Was I straightforward with what would happen if they failed to fix the performance issues?

  3. DON’T OVEREXPLAIN: Give them up to 3 fact-based and brief reasons for their termination. This is not the time to list all the things you did not like about them. Choose the top 1-3 reasons for the termination and stick to sharing those in a concise way. If needed, repeat the reasons.

  4. SHARE RESOURES: Create a resources sheet you can hand them at termination. Talk through it briefly and ask if they have any questions. Some ideas for resources you can share are: How Indeed can help them find a job (posting resume, alerting employers they are looking for a job, etc), what temporary staffing agencies may be able to provide and local options, and Department of Workforce Services state provided resources.

  5. LET THEM EXIT WITH DIGNITY: Try and avoid embarrassment to the employee on their way out. If you can, have someone who can be trusted collect their things from their desk while other office employees are at lunch or in a meeting. Let the employee leave through a side door instead of walking through the office where everyone can see them and wonder what is happening.

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