The Do's and Don'ts of Firing an Employee


No leader likes to fire an employee. Arguably, firing a staff member is one of the most unpleasant duties of being a leader. But, while it can ruin both parties' day, it is a necessary evil in ensuring your business continues to run efficiently.

While we can all agree letting someone go is circumstantial, and the reasons can vary per company, there are right and wrong ways to let someone know your organization no longer needs them.


According to The Healthy Journal, "40% of Americans have been fired from a job, " meaning many of us have been there or have done the firing. Because of this, you may know the signs to look for when it becomes time to let an employee go. You may have noticed an employee that once excelled in their career is now producing underwhelming work. Perhaps you've seen a lack of motivation in a particular employee, and the poor morale directly affects other staff members. Many different circumstances lead to letting an employee go. When is the right time?

When you've noticed an employee is not allowing your organization to move forward or is having a hard time meeting goals and isn't putting in the effort to fix what is stalling them, is bringing down the teams morale, or is no longer completing the duties of the job, It may be time for both the organization and the employee to move on. Beyond behavioral issues, there may be a blurry line of when exactly is the right time. Typically, if performance concerns have been brought to the employee's attention and there still needs to be more effort to improve, that is a good sign things will not get better with time.

Your company's morale and productivity need to come first. If an employee begins to impact either negatively – it's time to have the conversation.


Beyond performance, there are other categories to consider when terminating someone.

The Legal Considerations of Terminating an Employee

Each state has laws for terminating an employee. Your HR department must be well-versed in these considerations to protect your business. Investing in the right HR team makes all the difference in hiring and firing, and ensuring everyone walks away compliant is essential.

The Importance of Documentation in Termination

Again, your Human Resources staff should have documentation covering the termination process. Documentation can be helpful after the fact if there are any questions regarding the termination to can clarify any confusion a former employee may have. Documentation when preparing to let someone go is also necessary. Having proper documents can protect both the employee and the business. 

The Impact of Termination on Team Morale

When termination takes place, it can affect the whole team. Many of your employees have become friends and spend time working together. There may be a shift in morale when someone is fired. Staff may wonder if there is a more extensive layoff coming, it may make others feel insecure about their performance, and in some worst cases, it can cause other employees to leave on their own. Being prepared for these situations can ensure terminating one employee doesn't disrupt your business further.


Every aspect of your business has a solid strategy, and terminating an employee should be no different. Check out the below five strategies for letting employees go.

Give the Employee a Chance to Improve

Firing an employee can change their life, so giving your employee a chance to change what you feel isn't working is important. Having a conversation with this employee is vital to let them know you need to see better productivity or ask them what resources will allow them to excel in their role. Allow them to better themselves.

Keep it Short and To The Point

Once you've decided to terminate an employee and are meeting, keep it short, respectful, and to the point. It is crucial to present factual information as to why they are being let go and allow yourself to be clear about why they are being fired.

Be Well Prepared Beforehand

Being terminated can be emotional, so having all proper documentation and talking points well prepared is essential so the meeting can run as smoothly as possible. Ensuring leadership is ready will make the difficult conversation go smoother and come off more confident.

Have HR Present For Support

Having HR join you for the meeting when you plan to terminate someone is always a good idea. Having HR in attendance allows you to protect yourself should any legal trouble arise but also create a sense of support if emotions get involved. 

Keep It Private

In most firing situations, it is unpleasant when someone is terminated, so making it as discreet as possible is essential. For example, do not let anyone on the staff know the employee will be terminated, and don't ask that this employee pack up their belongings in front of their colleagues. Instead, offer options like supervised, after-hours packing. Easing that discomfort will make a difference when someone has just been terminated.


Proper communication is the backbone of your company. Without it, in any department, things would fall apart. The same is said when it comes to proper communication in termination. When terminating an employee, how you communicate the message, the reasons for the termination and the necessary next steps must be clarified and appropriately communicated. There can be no room for confusion when an employee is terminated, which begins with proper communication.


Having any confusion when it comes to the termination process can lead to trouble for both parties involved. On the employer's side, they could face legal consequences if processes and reasons for termination weren't clear or lawfully stated. On the employee's side, if they feel slighted or like the process wasn't done fairly, they could seek legal action. The best way to ensure a smooth termination is to have strong practices in place.


It may be the worst part of the job, but it is important to follow proper protocols and communication when it comes to letting an employee go. Your leadership and management team should feel confident and well-versed in what to do should they need to terminate someone. If your leadership team could improve, The Shift Spot can help. Contact us today.