Every manager wants to give his or her employees as many chances as possible, but sometimes consistently bad performance reviews mean you must let employees go. Terminating an employee is rarely an easy task, and it often costs more to fire an employee than to find an alternative, making it a decision of last resort for many businesses.

Determining Grounds for Termination

In addition to being a complicated process, terminating an employee often means avoiding potential lawsuits and using the right information to make the call. Having a strong record of performance in the form of employee logs and detailed performance reviews can help a company validate its reasons for letting an employee go.

Your organizational documents, such as a handbook, should contain clear information on your termination policies. This information may vary from company to company, but it provides the guidelines you need to make the decision. You should always have a legitimate reason for terminating an employee.


After a certain number of bad reviews, disciplinary incidents, or other examples of business disruption, consider putting an employee on probation. Reasons you may put an employee on probation or consider termination include unpredictability, a decline in performance without a valid reason, poor attendance, a careless attitude, or unwillingness to change certain behaviors.  This gives an employee the opportunity to pull himself or herself together before you make the final decision to terminate. Putting a difficult employee on probation also prevents the uneasiness of surprise terminations in the workplace.

Tactfully Making the Call

There are a few things you should do to terminate an employee effectively, fairly, and gently. Avoid making snap decisions regarding employee termination, and consult with HR regarding company policies to effectively prepare to make the right call for your team and the company. Here are some ways you can effectively terminate an employee:

  • Have the meeting near the beginning of the week: Don’t keep an employee on until Friday if you’re going to terminate him or her. Get it over with quickly so that both parties can move forward.
  • Bring tissues, a witness (perhaps an HR representative), and evidence to the meeting: You will need to explain your reasoning briefly, but avoid engaging in an argument. Keep the meeting short and to the point. Provide the employee with any exit information he or she needs and end the meeting. Provide information about future references, health benefits, and any termination compensation that may apply.
  • Offer a written referral, if applicable: Some employees don’t work out for other reasons, and you may offer them a referral after termination. If you cannot provide an employee with a referral, express this sentiment clearly.

12 Steps to Firing an Employee With Tact

Firing an employee is never easy. It’s a tough decision to make, and it will always be hard on the person being fired. That’s why it is vital that you take the time to fire someone with tact – not just for them but also for your organization. This post has 12 tips on how to do so without hurting morale or making things worse than they need to be. These tips are from people who have been there before and want to help you get through this difficult step in your managerial journey!

Give the employee ample notice

If possible, give an employee plenty of notice that their job will be ending. This will help them plan for their next step and also give you time to find a replacement if needed. Plus, it shows that you are considerate of how they feel about leaving your company (or being fired).

Provide documentation of the exit process

Offer documentation on what the company expects from an exit interview as well as information on benefits continued after employment has ended. You should also be sure to have this information in writing somewhere so employees can reference it later when they need additional guidance or just want reassurance that everything is going according to plan!

Provide references

Provide references where applicable and offer other assistance before letting go of someone who may not know many people in your industry, like introducing them to important contacts or a business mentor. Some organizations provide job counseling services to help someone find a new job.

Offer to help

Offer to help in any way possible, even if it’s just a case of providing moral support. It may not be possible to offer the employee much more than moral support, but showing empathy to the employee will help the transition.

Find ways to make the employee feel valued

Encourage the employee to help with the transition if you believe they are willing and will do so with a good attitude. This might be something like teaching someone else in your team how to do what they did, so as not to leave behind any gaps when you let go of the person.

Keep the process confidential

You don’t have to tell all employees you’re letting someone go and why. Telling others about this means having discussions with more people who are likely going to ask questions – some personal things may need privacy over transparency at times!

Explain the decision

If there’s no other option but firing, first explain as kindly as possible why it won’t work out before giving notice. You only have to declare so much information during the exit, so be careful with your words. In some situations, it may be an option to give the employee time to find a job while still employed while in other situations it’s best for a quick exit.

Provide a written notice of termination

In the email, it should include how much they’ll be paid and when that will happen as well as what information is needed for any benefits such – let them know if there are forms to fill out so they can do this while still employed or with an advisor before letting them go.

Give notice if possible

Consider giving two weeks’ advance notice after explaining why it won’t work out in some situations – but make sure you understand all their employment rights before doing this! This applies even moreso if your employee works part time. Consult with your HR department for specific laws regarding the departure of staff.

Be clear in your communication

Make sure you’re as clear and concise about the termination process as possible. Help them understand why you made the choice to let them go when possible by being transparent about what effective ways of working are for your organization or team.

Bring in HR

Send someone from HR or another manager with experience in terminating employees to meet with him/her when possible (especially if they are not expecting this news). This is also an opportunity for you as a manager to get feedback on how your team runs so that management can improve where needed.

Offer severance

If applicable, offer whatever severance package was agreed upon in their contract or contactually promised at hiring time. Your organization may have a severance policy, find out what will be offered to this staff member leaving.

Letting an employee go is never an easy decision to make, but it might be the right one. Whether an employee has consistently underperformed despite efforts to assist him or her or if he or she is otherwise problematic, termination may provide the only proper way forward. A strong performance log and review data can help employers make effective termination decisions. Make sure that your next termination is as tactful as possible by using a performance review template.