Top 5 Clanger Statements to Never Say When Firing

You’ve made the decision.  This person must go.  You hate it (or you love it!) but now it’s time to sit with them and break the news. However, there are ways that you can make this difficult, and ways that you can make it easier (on you and on them). So, here are the top 5 clanger statements you should never say when firing:

  1. This is so hard for me
  2. I understand how you feel
  3. If only you had…
  4. This is for the best
  5. If there’s anything I can do, let me know


This is so hard for me

This is actually true; firing is hard for you to do – maybe the hardest task you’ve ever undertaken – and this is an awful day that you’ve been dreading for the past two weeks.  But, it’s not as a hard a day as they are having!

First, you still have a job tomorrow.  Second, your life is about to get much better, now that this person isn’t around anymore.  Third, showing this kind of resolve will help your career and make you look better in the eyes of your co-workers and bosses.  Therefore, it isn’t really as hard for you as it is for them.

So it’s important to remember that this event is not about you, it’s about them.  Don’t remind them that you’re having a hard day.  Do you think they really care?  I can assure you that they don’t!

I understand how you feel

Here’s a phrase that’s a real clanger.  Because even if you’ve been fired before, you don’t actually understand how they feel right at this moment.   It’s important to remember that you haven’t lived through this moment from their point of view.  You don’t have the same family to inform, and you don’t have the same emotions to struggle with once it’s over.

You may feel that you understand, and you may feel that saying you understand is helpful, but it isn’t.  So don’t say it!

If only you had…

Wrong wrong wrong!  You’ve already decided that you aren’t prepared to save the relationship.  Why then will you rehash things that can’t be changed, and will only make the person feel worse?

Also, this opens up the thing you most want to avoid; getting into a debate.  You don’t want to debate, because it’s over!  Plus, you don’t want them feeling even more wronged than they likely already feel.

Discipline yourself to NOT. GET. INTO. THE. PAST.  Give up all hope of them (or you) having a brighter past and focus on the today and how this person will get through the rest of it in a way that spares their dignity and gives them closure for tomorrow.

This is for the best

Really?  For who?  You?  The company? Because I can assure you that they don’t feel it’s best for them.  Right now, the person you’re firing feels like it’s the worst day they’ve ever experienced.  Probably they’re going to go home and cry about it.  I’ve seen big body builders break down in tears when they hear they’re being let go.

So while it might really be the best thing for them in the long run, they don’t feel it now, so don’t bring it up.  Because it’s a real clanger and they’ll resent you for saying it.

If there’s anything I can do, let me know

How do you propose to help them?  Are you going to go home and explain their unemployment to their spouse?  Are you going to help them have the awkward conversations with their kids about why they no longer have a job?  Will you walk them down to the employment office and help them apply for benefits?

Probably not.  It’s important that you understand for certain that you aren’t going to be part of this person’s healing going forward.  They’re not going to talk to you about it.  In fact, they may never want to see you again.  When they catch sight of you in the mall, they will duck into the nearest store to avoid talking to you.

That’s okay.  They need to move on from here without your help.

In summary:

If you avoid saying these five statements, the person you are firing will feel as good as possible about the situation, and you won’t make it harder for yourself.

  1. This is so hard for me
  2. I understand how you feel
  3. If only you had…
  4. This is for the best
  5. If there’s anything I can do, let me know

Additional resources

Thanks for reading this article on ‘The top five clanger statements to never say when firing an employee.’  Below are additional resources from Professional Leadership Institute, the global provider of online human resources and leadership tools:


Trevor Throness is a speaker, consultant, and author of “The Power of People Skills.”  He is also co-founder and senior instructor at

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