Firing Etiquette – Let them go the right way

by Claire Valenty on July 11, 2010

in Business & Office Etiquette

business firing etiquette

Sometimes, firing someone is just as hard as being fired.  In this article on Firing the right way discover how keeping your cool can help maintain control over the situation and how best to soothe your remaining employees after the fact.

You’ve put in the hours to become the big boss.  But, like they say, with great power comes even greater responsibility.  And this is never more true than when you are put in the position where you need to fire someone.   Although you never can predict how someone is going to react to getting fired (have you seen “Up in the Air”?), you can maintain control of the situation and help the person getting fired through this terrible time as best as you can.

Firings should always be done face to face. You might think you’re allowing the employee to save face and embarrassment by conducting a firing via phone, but, at the end of the day, it is more professional and respectable to look the person in the eye and give them the reason they are being let go.

When firing someone, it is best to have someone else present as a witness in case things take a turn for the worse.  We devote a large portion of our lives and heart to our jobs, so, when someone tells us it’s over, it’s almost like ending a romantic relationship.  The person may take it calmly, they may cry or they may get angry.  Some may even go through all of these stages and more. Don’t assume because the person has been a quiet desk clerk for the last ten years at the company that they will take their severance notice quietly and walk away.  People act differently under stress.  For that reason, it is best to do firings in areas where other employees won’t be able to see or hear what is going on.  This will not only save the employee being fired from embarrassment, but, also will not subject the remaining employees to the ugly truth that they could be gone any day, too.  It won’t help your employee morale at any!  And no matter how the employee does react, keep your cool and maintain a professional, calm tone.

Sometimes, the reason the employee is being terminated is for reasons beyond their control.  This is common especially in this economy as many companies are downsizing.  Sometimes, although sad because the employee did not do anything wrong, these types of firing are easiest.  The other reason for firing someone is because they did not perform their job up to the standards expected of them.   Regardless of the reason, state it clearly and do not embellish. If the employee has questions, please answer them, but, don’t delve too much into the details if the person is being fired for poor performance; these days, law makers have companies jump through hoops before they are able to fire someone.  Guaranteed, this person has been giving verbal or written notice before that they were not up to snuff.

Have options available for the employee who is being fired. Even if they are being let go because their performance caused your company to lose tons of money, at the end of the day, that employee made a mistake – they are still a human being with emotions and, most likely, a family to feed.  Have pamphlets for unemployment or job search agencies available.  Have their final paycheck ready as well as severance package details, if applicable.  Some companies have another supervisor pack up the employee’s desk while the employee is being fired by their supervisor.  Some say this is cruel; others say it helps the employee save face from doing the walk of shame back to their desk to pack it up.  You’ll have to decide what works best for your company culture.

As stated before, a firing will affect your remaining employees’ morale.  Make sure you address the firing with the remaining staff either in person or via email. If the termination was due to a resizing or restructuring, feel free to state that.  However, if it was for performance related reasons, it is best to keep tight lipped about why that employee is gone.  State that you are sorry the person had to leave, but, you are very pleased with the remaining employees’ work efforts and you know that this is what is best for keeping the company strong, for their benefit, as well.   Close your communication with the offer that your door is always open if anyone has any questions or concerns they would like addressed.

Photo: dreamstime/Filmfoto

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Geri August 22, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Could you tell me what the proper current business etiquette is when firing a relative? Is it ever acceptable, advisable, or in good taste to terminate a relative via email?
Thank you,

Rinku Prakash August 19, 2013 at 4:37 am

Well you could always call the employee in the evening of the day before and explain. He can be asked to not come to the office from the next day. This will save him the shame of being kicked out and having to leave which leaves him in a state of shock !

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