Over the years I have had to terminate, fire, let go of a multitude of employees.  It does not matter how many times I have experienced this – it is always hard, it is always a shock, and it is always “messy” in some form or another.

In the last 20 years I have probably had to terminate 25-30 employees.  In all of those terminations I have learned a couple take-a-ways – thus, my list:

  • Prior to the actual termination, be prepared.  If you have an HR department, confer with them on details.  There are other considerations that you may not have thought about.  (Sick time, vacation, personal days, and company- owned equipment such as cell phone or computer.)
  • Think through what you are going to say, and do not try and say it softly, but rather, clearly.  There were two occasions where I tried to say the “termination” so softly, that it was not clear what was transpiring.  “Today is your last day as an employee.”  “Your employment will be terminated officially today, but you will be paid through the end of the month”, are clear statements.
  • You cannot plan nor prepare for the emotional response of the person you are terminating.  You need to rehearse through as many scenarios as you can in advance.
  • Having a letter or document for the person to both sign, and take a copy with them, can be helpful.  The document recounts the key facts you want to make sure they understand.  It could state:  last day, how long health benefits will run, pension, who to call with questions, any left over details of things they may need.
  • Keys, charge cards, lap tops, automobiles, and other property that is company-owned needs to be thought through prior to that day.
  • How can you allow the person to leave well?  Help them create the “press release” as to why he or she will no longer be an employee.  This helps a great deal.  If this is done correctly, it can stifle some of the gossip.
  • Talking with others about this person’s exit:  Keep your mouth shut!  The fewer that have the inside information, the better.
  • Rumors will spread . . . the best way around this is to have an inside group. Or control group that you can share key information with about the change in leadership.  Meet with this group face to face as soon as you can.  This will alleviate a variety of rumors.  The internal “press release” will also help with these rumors.

My last thought is that “you know when you know.”  Obviously if there is blatant misconduct there has to be a termination.  I am referring to those employees that just are not working out — you know it, and they know it.  My only advice is to deal more swiftly in these situations, as they generally do not change for the better, they get worse.

Have a great JACK-O-LANTERN day!



  1. This is done so poorly across the board, and there needs to be more writing like this. I bet this would actually make a good book as I can’t recall much out there on it. The more I’ve let people go, the more honest I am with them. I try to stay away from Cliches like, “We’re going a different direction,” but “We’ve lost confidence that you can do this at the level that it’s needed, and we are going to look for someone else.” It’s still okay to say that it’s hard. The conversations I’ve had keep getting shorter and shorter. Being direct, truthful, yet concerned for them at an appropriate human level is good. And you are right- you CAN NOT predict the emotional response.

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