How do you terminate an employee properly? The reality is that no one wants to get fired, and no one wants to fire anyone. Unfortunately, there are situations where employees need to be let go, whether due to budget cuts or performance issues.
All situations of firing an employee need to be handled with care. Every scenario is different, particularly if you have an at-will employee who might not have a detailed employment contract.
Learn how to properly terminate an employee, and have an employment termination letter ready to expedite the process and protect yourself.
6 Steps to Terminate an Employee
If you are interested in how to terminate an employee, keep in mind that every situation is different. You will need to tailor the process to meet your specific situation, but there are a few steps you need to follow. They include:
Step 1 – Document Everything
First, you must make sure that you document everything. There is a saying that if you don’t document it, it is like it never happened. You do not want to be accused of unfairly or inappropriately firing an employee, so you need to document evidence supporting your reasons for firing the employee.
For example, you might want to create a paper trail of mistakes, employee evaluation forms, issues, and past failures by the employee. Of course, you should also give the employee an opportunity to improve if he or she has not done anything to harm the company intentionally.
Step 2 – Consult Your Management Teams
Before you terminate an employee, you need to consult with your management teams. In particular, you need to meet with your human resources and legal departments. Your human resources team will review the employee’s history and employment contract to see if there are any specific violations. Your legal team will also protect the company when you proceed with the termination process and help avoid a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Step 3 – Schedule a Meeting
You must schedule a meeting with the employee to terminate them in person. You need to think carefully about how this process will take place. Ideally, it should be done privately, but you might want a witness to sit in on the termination meeting and support your version of the events.
You should also try to schedule the meeting at the end of the day when it’s quieter, and there are fewer people around. That way, you don’t have to worry about a fired employee feeling exposed to his or her coworkers after a difficult meeting. Having the meeting at the end of the day will avoid unnecessary questions and prying eyes, as there are fewer people around
Step 4 – Prepare for the Meeting
Before the date of the meeting, you need to prepare accordingly. Make sure you have a script in mind and consider bringing evidence of all of the issues to the meeting with the employee. You probably do not want the meeting to go on too long, but you need to anticipate potential questions from the employee. You should also speak with your human resources and legal teams once again to make sure you do not overlook anything that has to be mentioned during the meeting.
Step 5 – Hold the Meeting
When the meeting takes place, be open and honest with the employee. State why the meeting is taking place, and inform the employee of why he or she is being fired. If the employee is owed a severance package (including unused vacation), explain the severance package and final paycheck in detail, and answer any questions the employee might have to the best of your ability.
If you feel it is appropriate to do so, thank the employee for his or her service, and consider providing options or guidance for future directions the employee might take in his or her career.
Step 6 – Gather Any Company Property and Change Security Logins
Once the meeting is done, do not forget to close that employee’s account with your company. Try to delete their account, remove access to the building, and ensure the employee does not have access to confidential information anymore.
You need to move quickly, as you do not want a fired employee to steal the company’s confidential information as revenge potentially. Do not forget to write the termination to ensure everything is clear, and provide the employee with a termination letter.
How Not to Terminate an Employee
You can tailor the above steps to meet the needs of your specific situation, but there are also several common mistakes to avoid.
A few common mistakes that employees and managers make when they terminate an employee include:
- Firing without reason: If you are wondering how to terminate an employee without cause, outright firing them is probably not the best way to do so. If you fire an employee without a valid reason, you could set yourself up for a lawsuit for wrongful termination. Always make sure you have a valid reason if you want to fire or terminate an employee.
- Firing an employee without a witness: When you have a termination meeting with an employee, you must always ensure a witness is present. It might be that employee’s manager or a representative from the human resources department. Always have a witness present to avoid false accusations following the meeting.
- Firing without warning: Firing an employee is difficult for everyone involved in the process, but it is even harder when the employee does not see it coming. Always give an employee an opportunity to correct their job performance before you decide to fire them.
- Having a meeting that goes on too long: Firing an employee is emotionally draining for all parties, so try not to let the meeting go on too long. You need to keep the meeting short and sweet. Make sure you answer any questions the employee might have but try not to let the meeting go on too long.
- Giving the impression it is not permanent: Finally, you must ensure the employee understands that the firing is permanent. While you want to be nice, you want to be straightforward. Ensure the employee understands that they are not being suspended but are being terminated.
You may want to talk with your human resources team before it is time for the meeting. That way, you can make sure you avoid these mistakes and not set yourself up for possible legal action down the road.
What to Say in a Termination Meeting
Because these meetings are so challenging, you might be interested in a sample ‘how to terminate an employee’ script. You can use a few options, and you may need to tweak these scripts to match your situation.
Remember that you may need to alter or change these scripts depending on your situation. That way, the employee understands exactly why they are being fired, and you can keep the meeting short, sweet, and to the point.
Terminating an Employee for Cause
“While we have given you plenty of opportunities to improve your performance, we continue to field complaints about your conduct from our clients and coworkers. Therefore, we’ve decided to terminate your employment here. Despite our checklists, advice, and supervision, you haven’t improved your performance, so today is your last day. We haven’t seen the necessary improvements, but thank you for your time at our company. If you have any questions, please ask us.”
Terminating an Employee At-Will
“John, today will be your last day at our company. We are severing your employment at will and will provide you with your COBRA notification and an explanation of how the process works. Thank you for your time and service to our company, but we have decided it is time to move on. We will need to collect all of our company property from your office. Please let us know if you have any questions.”
6 Reasons to Terminate an Employee
There are several reasons why you might want to terminate an employee. You need a valid reason for terminating an employee, as you want to avoid any potential legal action.
A few examples of reasons why you might decide to terminate an employee include:
Everyone needs to understand the chain of command, and there might be situations where you have an employee guilty of insubordination. Perhaps they have outright refused to listen to their superiors or willfully disobeyed orders one too many times. Insubordination is a common reason why you might need to terminate an employee.
Tardiness and Absences
You may also need to terminate an employee due to tardiness or repeated absences. Your company has difficulty staying on track if people are late or missing. If an employee has a habit of being late or missing work without notifying anyone, you may need to terminate them.
In some situations, employees genuinely try their best, but their performance is not good enough. But how to terminate an employee for poor performance? You might want to take some time to guide your employees on how they can improve; using an effective performance appraisal method can help. But if the quality of their work does not advance, you may need to move forward with the termination process.
Sometimes, employees are guilty of crimes during their time at the company. If you believe an employee is stealing from the company, particularly if you have a paper trail on a company card, you may want to move forward with the termination process. You might even need to notify law enforcement.
Harassment and Violence
Harassment and violence should never be tolerated in the workplace. If you have fielded multiple complaints from clients or coworkers, regardless of whether it is physical violence, verbal abuse, or sexual harassment, you need to move quickly. This is a reason for terminating an employee immediately.
If you have evidence that an employee is revealing trade secrets to the public or your competitors, you need to take action quickly. This is a serious situation; you might even need to contact the legal team. You should terminate this employee immediately to protect the company’s information. You should also conduct a full audit to see what confidential information the company employee might have revealed.
All of these termination reasons can directly impact the revenue and profit generated by the company. Some of them could hurt your company culture, while others could directly threaten the health and safety of your employees, customers, and the company as a whole.
While you might want to terminate these employees as quickly as possible, you need to go through the process, working with your HR and legal teams. That way, you make sure the company is protected, and you also ensure there is a valid reason for firing the employee.
Remember to expedite the process by having an employment termination letter template ready. That way, you can schedule the meeting as soon as possible and allow everyone to move on with their lives.