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Terminating an Employee Can Be Difficult – Here are Some Pointers

Posted by: Karen Booher on October 17th, 2023

“You’re Fired”.

It may have been easy for Donald Trump in the reality TV show, The Apprentice, but many managers and HR professionals would agree that firing someone is one of the most dreaded parts of their job.

A recent article from the Society of Human Resources Professionals (SHRM) provided some pointers that can help you navigate a drama-free termination.

Preparation and Documentation – and Timing

Documentation of prior discussions of sub-par performance, poor conduct, excessive tardiness or absenteeism, or other issues that may be at the forefront of the termination is key. You expose yourself to potential problems if you have never discussed the issues with your employee and given them an opportunity to improve.

With the exception of rare cases which cause for immediate termination, employers should not rush into making a termination.

Martha Boyd, an attorney with Baker Donelson in Nashville, TN, says “Terminating an employee takes careful deliberation, preparation and documentation. Do not be rushed into terminating in a haphazard, unprepared way by an overeager manager or by pressure to get the employee out of the office for morale, safety or other reasons. You can always put the employee on an administrative leave while you are making and finalizing the decision to terminate.”

It is always prudent to consult with legal counsel prior to terminating an employee if it is expected to be contentious or outside of what is standard.

The Termination Meeting Itself

Sample Scripts

Your Tone and Delivery

In addition to being concise and to the point, it is best to be compassionate but firm in your tone, and do not apologize.

“Express understanding, but be prepared to respond with statements such as, ‘I understand you feel that way, but the decision is final,’” says Ford. You should always maintain professionalism, regardless of how the employee conducts themselves. Do not resort to raising your voice, name-calling, or other unprofessional conduct.

Conclude the meeting by asking them if they have any personal belongings at their desk, and then escort them while they gather their things and return their keys and other company property.

Afterward, address the situation with other staff immediately to minimize office gossip. Again, brevity is best. Keep your explanation neutral without going into details. For example, “John Doe is no longer with the company”.


SHRM HR Daily Newsletter, 8/25/2023. “Don’t Shy Away from Tough Conversations When Firing Someone”, August 24, 2023.

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