How to Fire an Employee

You've done all you can to help your problem employee, but nothing has changed. What now?Businesses rely on teamwork in order to be productive and successful. Good managers do all they can to train, coach, and motivate employees, but what happens when an employee just isn't cutting it? Here are some tips on how to prepare for—and go through with—firing an employee.

Document Everything

As soon as you think you may have to fire a member of your team, start documenting and compiling all communication with and about the employee. This includes performance evaluations, email exchanges, and coaching sessions.

Communicate Your Concerns

An employee in danger of losing his or her job should be told as much and given an opportunity to adjust his or her behavior or performance. The employee needs to be informed that there is a problem as soon as you see it. Meet with the team member individually and communicate your concerns. Be sure to list specific issues and outline the improvements you expect. Discussing specific issues keeps the conversation on topic and provides a way for you to measure changes in the employee's performance after the meeting.

Protect Your Business

If you feel you've done all you can to give the employee ample chance to improve and have not seen the appropriate changes, it may be time to let the employee go. Before getting started, ensure that the reason for the termination does not violate any state or federal laws. If you're unsure, you may want to consult your company's legal counsel before proceeding.

Gather all the documentation outlining the employee's poor performance, including details on the reason the employee is being let go, and what steps were taken to coach the employee. You don't need to provide your documentation to the employee, but you do need to be prepared to defend your decision to fire. If there is ambiguity regarding the grounds for dismissal, the employee could pursue a lawsuit alleging unlawful termination.

No matter what your relationship with the employee or how trustworthy you believe he or she is, there's no way to predict how someone will react to being fired. To protect your business, you must make sure you don't leave any room for accusations of unfair dismissal.

When You're Ready

Once you are armed with all the necessary documentation, set up a time to meet with the employee. Waiting until the end of the day or week is common, but may not be the best decision; often, firing an employee as soon as you're ready makes the most sense. It can be difficult to maintain a normal working environment after you've made the decision to fire.

At the meeting, be direct and firm and focus solely on the facts. If you've done all you can to help, the termination shouldn't come as a surprise to the employee. Do be kind and considerate regardless of your feelings about the employee. Job termination is an emotionally charged experience for all involved. Keeping your conversation short and to-the-point can prevent it from becoming overly emotional.

Once you've broken the news and the meeting is over, cut ties right away. Escort the employee to his or her work area to collect personal belongings, provide any outstanding pay, and escort him or her out of the building.

The bottom line is that all members of a team must be dedicated and productive in order to build and maintain a successful business. When faced with a problem employee, you must take appropriate action to help the employee improve. If that doesn't work, it's in the best interest of the business—and in some cases, even the problem employee—to let him or her go.