Five Things You Should Never Do When Firing an Employee

Dr. Ryan Giffen

It’s easy to see many of the perks that come along with being a company owner. But there are many downsides as well, such as when you have to fire one of your employees. Even if a worker has caused several issues during their time with the company, firing an employee is one task that no manager looks forward to. This person has bills to pay and possibly a family to support. And firing them is sure to make their life difficult for a while. 

It is possible to help ease the blow of job termination for both you and your employee. Here are five useful tips for how to fire someone and not cause serious issues afterward. 

Don’t Fire Without Giving a Warning

Being fired is an unpleasant experience for everyone. But it can be even more unpleasant if the worker has no idea the termination is coming. Therefore, it is always a good idea to give the employee a warning so they have a few weeks or months to improve. If they truly want to stay with the company, they will make an effort to improve their performance. 

Also, if your company needs to downsize, it is always best to give the employees you plan to let go a warning ahead of time (depending on the size of your company, Federal Law known as the WARN Act may require you to give advance notice). This will give them more time to look for a new job they can start as soon as this job ends. 

Make Sure the Termination is Legal 

There are certain legalities involved in a termination that all company owners should be aware of. Most employees in the United States work “at-will”. This means the manager can fire them at any time for any reason, as long as it isn’t illegal for them to do so. 

Known as “Wrongful Termination” there are six major categories for illegally firing an employee. A few includes:

  • Discrimination
  • Retaliation
  • Refusal to take a lie detector test
  • Alien status
  • Complaints about OSHA violations
  • And the violation of public policy 

Even if you follow these rules, if you still feel you could be sued for wrongful termination, you can have the employee sign a release showing they agree not to sue (generally in the form of a severance agreement). 

Don’t Fire Without a Witness 

While it isn’t against the law to fire an employee in your office alone, it isn’t a good idea to terminate anyone unless you have a witness present in the room. Many times employees will file a wrongful termination suit and this could land you and your company in the middle of a complex lawsuit if you don’t take precautions. Having a witness, such as a member of your HR team present, can help you avoid these issues. 

Don’t Argue 

Sometimes an employee will silently accept their termination without an issue. Other times you could end up with a  confrontation. Do not allow yourself to be dragged into a never-ending back and forth conversation. Calmly let them know that you are willing to discuss things with them but you have already made up your mind and nothing you discuss is going to change that. 

Do Not Leave Them Unattended

Right after you have fired an employee, your meeting comes to an end. At that point, they are now your former employees. You shouldn’t leave them unattended, especially inside your office. Supervise them while gathering their things. You may even want to add that to the company policy so all employees know they will not be left unattended after termination. 

It is common for newly fired employees to make rash decisions that could involve the destruction of property or angry outbursts. Therefore have someone such as an HR representative on hand to be with them until they leave the building. 

About Dr. Ryan Giffen

With over 20 years of experience, Dr. Ryan Giffen is an expert in human relations and business culture. His career began in hospitality, leading operations and human resource departments for Fortune 500 companies and the like. Not long after, Ryan found his passion for teaching and consulting. He earned a Ph.D. in Hospitality Management with a Human Resources focus from Iowa State University and now works as an assistant professor at California State University, Long Beach. For over a decade, he continues to research and speak on organizational culture, relationship intelligence, and leadership effectiveness. Ryan is also the founder of Inospire, a company helping bosses and employees build stronger relationships with one another.  Lastly, Dr. Giffen is producer and host of the Corporate Shadow Podcast. a show helping everyday employees overcome workplace nonsense.