How To Fire An Employee

Jasmine Brennan-Rincon

Jasmine Brennan-Rincon

Human Resources Professional

One of the costliest components, in terms of time and resources, of the employment relationship is termination. In most circumstances, terminating an employee takes place over an extensive period of time, requiring HR involvement such as mediation, documentation, and occasionally legal consultation. Once the individual is 'let go' the process of replacing (or backfilling) the role, onboarding the replacement, and orienting him or her is the responsibility of Human Resources. While your organizational policies and procedures around employee discipline may call for certain steps or actions, it is important to ensure alignment with overarching employment laws. In addition to considering the tips below, ensure that you are consulting with employment lawyers regularly, as laws and policies change frequently. The residual effects of an illegal discharge may include large sums of money, lowered employee morale, and an adverse impact on your company's brand image. Therefore, it is crucial that you formalize the termination process and educate responsible parties within your organization on best practices.

Educate Managers

The first step is to ensure that managers are well versed with processes and procedures related to termination. Aside from sharing your employee handbook, engage in ongoing dialogue with managers to enhance knowledge around the necessary steps, courses of action and policies. Often times managers will call their HR Representative and request an immediate termination of an employee, citing numerous 'offenses'. In most of these cases, ending the employment relationship is not justified because there is no documentation that demonstrates a formal, phased disciplinary process.

The key is to demonstrate to managers that it is their responsibility to assess performance on an ongoing basis. When performance challenges are apparent, managers should be instructed to contact Human Resources immediately for guidance and consultation. At this point, the issue should be formally addressed and a detailed action plan must be developed to remedy it. Both the manager and the employee must agree to the terms of the action plan and sign off. Of course, this should be documented and improvement must be closely monitored. Remain in contact with management to gain insight and provide ongoing support; should the issues reoccur or escalate, follow your organization's policies regarding next steps.

Notify Employees of Policies

When employees join an organization, a key component of the onboarding process is to educate newcomers on the policies that must be adhered to. The reality is that a lot of information is shared over the first few days of an employee's tenure, and the rules and guidelines are typically not kept at the top of anyone's mind. With this being said, engaging in ongoing dialogue with employees to share reminders and updates to policies is crucial.

While is isn't advisable or conducive to morale to share too much information regarding disciplinary action and termination, the employee handbook should be readily accessible to all. In the instance in which an employee is being formally disciplined, and could potentially face termination, be sure to thoroughly explain and provide written documentation outlining the process. Demonstrate the connection between the employee's behavior or poor performance and an undesirable business impact. Subsequently, reinforce the fact that a component of the disciplinary policy is implementing an action plan that is favorable to both the employee and the organization. Encourage the employee and the manager to work collaboratively to develop a plan that accurately addresses the issues with time-bound and specific milestones that align with business objectives.

Identify Optimal Outcome

After receiving the notification from a manager that an employee is exhibiting performance issues, the role of Human Resources is to identify the best outcome and a way to achieve it. This entails a candid conversation with the manager about the extent of the issue, in which the goal is to understand if the employee's challenge can be remedied. This will also provide some insight into the amount of time and resources necessary to get the employee's performance back to an optimal level. Depending upon the nature and scope of the role, a hefty investment may not be conducive to sustainability, in which case alternative options should be identified. For example, if an employee is unable to complete a task in its entirety due to a lack of knowledge or understanding and extensive training is the sole solution, the individual might be better suited for a different role within the organization. The unfortunate reality is that in some cases the issue or behavior is egregious enough to justify expedited termination. Considering the best option from a company-wide sustainability perspective to the most effective course of action.

Conduct an Exit Interview

Ending the employment relationship is different based on each scenario, however there are a few things that must be done when terminating an employee. First, be sure to collect all company assets including cell phones, laptops, keys and access to proprietary information. For safety and security purposes, collect badges, keys or access cards to prevent re-entry into the workplace. When possible, conduct an exit interview to elicit any feedback or thoughts about the organization. You will also need to provide several documents, based upon state laws, which may include COBRA benefit notification, copies of signed non-compete documents, and information regarding the last paycheck as well as severance packages if applicable. It's important to remember that even after the exit interview HR professionals still provide services to terminated employees in the form of employment verifications for unemployment claims or background checks for prospective employers.

About The Author

Jasmine Brennan-Rincon

Jasmine Brennan-Rincon

Jasmine Brennan- Rincon is a Human Resources Professional with a diverse realm of expertise. Throughout her career, she has led people and projects in support of strategic organizational initiatives. Her areas of focus include talent acquisition, employee relations, employment branding, diversity & inclusion, employee engagement and performance management. Jasmine helps clients navigate career paths, build retention strategies and overcome performance management challenges. She offers a wide range of programs and services including resume writing, career development, personal branding, coaching and employee engagement initiatives.


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