Can You Really Fire Someone With Compassion? Consider These Tips for Graceful and Professional Firing

The New Year is officially upon us and maybe you feel it’s time to get rid of an employee – or a few employees – who aren’t performing or who are toxic for your corporate culture.


It’s never easy to fire anyone, but it comes with the territory as a leader.

Of course you never want to take a firing lightly but it is a part of life in the business world.

The question then becomes, what’s the best way to fire someone?

If you go about a firing in the wrong way, the results can range from damaging your employer brand to causing a sense of mistrust amongst your remaining employees. Even more detrimental is the potential for legal or civil repercussions resulting from mishandling a firing.

While it may not be pleasant, there are ways you can gracefully and professionally conduct yourself when firing one of your employees.

Don’t Go For Shock and Awe

The number one rule to a “good” firing?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise.

If you’re blindsiding an employee with a firing that appears to be coming out of nowhere, you’ve failed somewhere along the way as a leader.

Before ever considering a firing it’s important to update employees and let them know they’re in the danger zone. Barring an unforgivable offense, employees should have their shortcomings formally recognized and then be given an opportunity to make changes. If changes aren’t made then a firing can follow.

It’s important to note this isn’t just something done for the benefit of the person being fired – if your employees feel like one of their coworkers was unexpectedly hit with a firing it can make them feel as if they’re working in an environment lacking transparency.

Have Back-Up (In the Form of Data)

Firing shouldn’t be an emotional response – it should be a strategic decision and the best strategies have data to support them.

Before firing anyone, come prepared with the numbers and reasons as to why those numbers make a strong case for firing.

Also, have written documentation outlining the reasons you’re making the decision to do a firing. Even if you’re firing an employee because they create a negative corporate culture, all of the incidents leading up to your decision should be well-documented.

Be Prepared to Answer Questions

Since firing should be a well-thought out occurrence, you should naturally be able to answer the questions your soon-to-be former employee may have.

That person is going to have a lot of information swirling through their mind at that moment and you should be ready with answers – for example, information about severance packages and end dates are two concepts that come to mind when asking an employee to vacate his or her position.

Be Honest

It’s important to be completely honest when you’re firing someone, even if it’s difficult. While you do want to be empathetic, you don’t want to give information that isn’t true or is nicer than it should be.

Don’t try to create a false narrative – simply stick to the basics and provable facts to avoid future problems surrounding a firing.

Speak with Your Other Employees

As we’ve mentioned several times, firing isn’t just about the employee who’s leaving the company. It can have an impact on the entire organization.

At times a firing may have an immediately positive impact if an employee is being fired for attitudinal or behavioral problems. Otherwise it can feel a bit traumatic for coworkers and as a leader you should be prepared for these feelings.

Be open and honest with your employees and let them know why someone was fired – much as you did with the person you let go, be prepared with numbers and specifics that demonstrate how and why you made your decision.

December 31, 2014   Updated :March 17, 2015   employment, firing, termination   

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