How to Prepare for Firing an Employee

I know you hate this job.  Everyone does, and that’s probably a good thing.  People whose favorite job is firing an employee are a little scary.

I’m going to assume you’ve already made the decision to fire.  You know it has to happen, but you’re unsure of what exactly you need to do to prepare.

This article isn’t focusing on the actual event of the firing, but how to prepare for the event to happen.  Firing, like any other function in the organization is made smoother and better by following a process.

Here are the steps you should take before you even think of sitting across from a person telling them their job is ending.

Inform HR

If you’re in a larger organization, your human resources department is going to take care of a lot of these issues for you, especially the legal and clerical ones.

You’re not asking their permission.  You are the boss in this case.  You’re asking for their advice and support on how to carry out your plan.  If you have an HR department, include them in the process as they will help you manage the process and avoid pitfalls.

I should add that your HR staff are not the ones doing the firing.  This is your job.  They’re just there to act as witness and ensure things go as smoothly as possible.

Whether or not you have an HR department to rely on, the rest of the suggestions in this article will still apply to you.

Make a transition plan

Your transition plan needs to include

  1. Thinking through how their work will be handled temporarily going forward

Who will take the calls that went to the person?  Who will speak with their customers going forward?  How will their duties be handled and by whom?  Make a clear plan that you can roll out immediately so there’s no confusion.

  1. Who will replace them

You have a temporary plan, but you need to begin building your bench now.  Who might fit in their role?  Think of people currently working for competitors, suppliers, or even customers.  Think of people in other industries who you know that might be a fit.  Just make sure that the person you’re considering is outstanding wherever they are now.

  1. Protecting the organization

This includes securing sensitive information, changing passwords, changing locks, and consulting legal counsel.  Don’t give an angry ex-employee the opportunity to harm the organization in any way.

The Professional Leadership Institute provides training on Termination of Employment and offers a free preview.

Cover your legal basics

If your employee were to consult a labor lawyer they would find out that the law may take into account:

  • Age of the employee
  • Length of service
  • Level of responsibility
  • Amount of notice given
  • Possible discriminatory action
  • Whether or not the employee was induced to join the company
  • Availability of similar employment given the employee’s age, training, experience, and qualifications

You should consult with a labor lawyer before firing to make sure you are adhering to the laws governing your region.

Get your paperwork together

Be prepared to present them with final cheques.  These include:

  • Current pay
  • Bonuses
  • Vacation pay
  • Severance pay
  • Any other compensation outlined in their employee agreement

Talk to your HR department about filling out final paperwork such as records of employment or do it yourself.

Make sure you don’t have any reason to contact them or bother them once they’re no longer a part of the company.

For more on documentation, here’s an article on the paperwork you’ll need to consider.

Ask all the questions that need to be asked

Remember that you won’t have another chance to sit down with the employee once they’ve been fired and have left the premises.  The very last thing you want to do is call them a few days after the firing and ask them who their contact was at x company.

  1. Ask (and arrange for) the return of work tools

This includes computers, phones, cars, physical tools, inventory, or any other company property that they may have in their possession.

  1. Ask about ongoing project details

If you need contact numbers, descriptions of promises made to customers, or other project-in-process details, get them before they’re fired.  You’re not going to have much luck accessing any information once they’ve left the premises.  Why should they return your call?  What can you do?  Fire them (again)?

  1. Make arrangements for them to say their goodbyes

This should not be on the day of the firing.  You may arrange for them to be able to come back in a week or two, or you might decide that they can say goodbye on their own time.  In any case, be clear on what they can or can’t do during team work hours.

Plan your messaging to the rest of the team

Talk with key people

Before making a public announcement, you should speak with people close to them and give them advance warning.   Talk to them immediately after the firing has happened so that news doesn’t leak inappropriately.  You don’t want your employee finding out from a co-worker that they’re going to be fired the next day.

People close to the person will most likely not be surprised by the news.  Use the time with them to answer questions, especially about how work will be handled in the future.

Public announcement

Begin by preparing an email communication to go out to the whole company or department.  Make it positive and professional.  Never speak badly about the employee, even if they have left on bad terms.  Thank them for their contribution and wish them “the best” in the future.  Take the high road.  Here’s a sample email:

“This is to inform you that (name) is no longer with our company as of today.  I appreciate the contribution they have made to the company and wish them the best of luck in their future endeavours. 

All inquiries that normally went to (name) will now be directed to Joe at (number).

In Summary

Before you fire someone, prepare by taking these steps:

  1. Inform HR
  2. Make a transition plan
  3. Cover your legal basics
  4. Ask all the questions that need to be asked
  5. Plan your messaging to the rest of the team

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