It Had to Be Done: How to Ease the Firing Process


Firing employees is part and parcel of any manager’s job.

Sometimes, it can bring great relief – especially if the person being fired is a real slacker or a downright toxic employee. But most of the time? Firing an employee is stressful, uncomfortable and (if you’re not careful) risky.

When you have no other option than to let a team member go, use these tips to make the best of a difficult situation:

Do your homework. Before you take any action, make sure you are within your rights to fire an employee. While most employees in the U.S. are considered “at-will” (i.e., the employment agreement is one in which the employer may fire the employee for any reason or no reason), certain exceptions apply. Illegal reasons for firing an at-will employee include:

  • Discrimination. It is illegal to fire an employee for reasons that violate federal, state or local discrimination laws.
  • Whistleblowing. Terminating an employee for refusing to participate in, or remain silent about, illegal activities may give that individual legitimate grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit.
  • Exercising their legal rights. In general, at-will employees cannot be fired for taking family or medical leave, performing military duties, voting or serving on a jury, provided they do so within the requirements of the laws that govern them. 

If you’re considering firing an employee, follow your company’s established protocols and, if necessary, consult an attorney who is licensed to practice law in your area.

Provide fair warning. If an employee commits a crime at work or another egregious or dangerous act, it may be acceptable to terminate them immediately. Most of the time, however, it’s appropriate to provide a formal warning and clearly explain the consequences of not changing their behavior. Start by trying to determine the underlying cause of the problem. Then, provide coaching and performance feedback so that the employee has a legitimate opportunity to make needed changes and improvements. Document all steps you take, so you have a written record of your efforts.

Do it face to face. It may be tempting to deliver the bad news via email, phone, social media or text, but doing so is unprofessional and inappropriate. Conduct a brief in-person meeting with a witness (a human resources staff member is a good option) to let the person go.

If you’re nervous or uncomfortable, plan out what you will say. It’s best to skip long-winded explanations, keep your emotions in check, and make it clear that your decision is final. Have a plan in place for how you will end the meeting, so you can ensure the employee receives their personal belongings and that any company equipment or other materials are returned.

Don’t like firing employees?

Partner with PrideStaff. Temporary employees provide the capabilities and bandwidth you need, while reducing your risks:

  • Break the hire-and-fire cycle. Once work is complete, so is the employment relationship with the temporary employee.
  • If you’re not satisfied with a temporary employee’s performance or conduct, it’s our job as the employer of record to replace them.
  • Hire smarter. Temporary to hire services allow you to assess a candidate’s performance and culture fit on the job. Ensuring fit before you extend an offer increases hiring success.

Staff smarter. Contact your local PrideStaff office to learn more.

Note: Information in this article is not intended as legal advice and should not be taken as such. For advice on particular legal issues surrounding your company’s employment practices, speak to an attorney who is licensed to practice law in your area.