Career & Education

How do I fire someone?

Career Advisor

Carolyn Marie Smith

Sunday, March 17, 2019

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Dear Career Advisor:

I am new to the rank of management and although I am enjoying my job, I am facing my first major decision-making challenge — that of firing someone — and I am having sleepless nights over it. I must hasten to say that there are more than adequate justifiable reasons for the termination. Notwithstanding, I am more than a bit anxious. I have known this person for some time. What suggestions do you have for handling this situation?


Orville M

Dear Orville:

Thank you for your question. I trust you will appreciate that we had to edit out some of the details.

Terminating someone should not be taken lightly, nor is it an easy feat, but it is one of those aspects of management that, when necessary, must be done. The process must be carried out with total separation from personal concerns and should be done only after careful consideration, but without procrastination.

Our first recommendation is that you do the groundwork, which should involve four key steps:

i. Documentation – Ensure that all evidence and materials relevant to the case are properly documented. Review the reasons for the termination to ensure that the case, if assessed independently, can stand up to scrutiny and will be deemed just, fair, and credible.

ii. Disciplinary hearing – Ensure that the worker is given a fair hearing chaired by a neutral party. If the outcome warrants termination, then proceed to step three.

iii. Expedite succession planning procedures – Determine how the job functions of the soon-to-beterminated employee will be carried out after the termination. Will the position be filled by someone already in the organisation, or will a new person be recruited?

iv. Activate termination action plan – Develop an action plan for the termination which will include setting the date, time, and place for the meeting. Prepare yourself to lead the dialogue. It might be best to make notes of exactly what you should say. Prepare the termination letter and final compensation package. Work out the logistics for the handing over of any company property or protocols that might be in the individual's possession or control.

With the decision made and the groundwork completed, executing the firing process will definitely be easier and is more likely to be seamless for both the employee and the organisation. Arrange for a short meeting with the employee in question, not for negotiation, but to communicate a decision.

Take the following steps:

i. Be direct – Avoid much small talk; quickly establish the purpose of the meeting. Get the individual's full attention by stating that the meeting is to discuss his or her separation from the company.

ii. Give reason(s) – Briefly state the reasons for the termination of service. One or two concise sentences should suffice. This is not the time to lay blame or re-hash details. Phrase your statements to indicate that the termination decision has already been taken. It would be appropriate to give the termination letter at this point. Otherwise, do so at the conclusion of the meeting.

iii. Allow for a response – Listen keenly. It is okay to be empathetic not sympathetic. Be aware that compassion in such meetings can often be misdirected or misunderstood. Be careful not to send mixed signals.

iv. Re-cap – If necessary, re-iterate the reasons for the termination, citing additional evidence if necessary. Take responsibility; don't shift the weight of the action to your superiors.

v. Next steps – Outline the next steps, in respect of the termination, for both the ex-employee and the company.

vi. Ending the meeting – Graciously affirm the individual for contributions made to the organisation. Remember no employee is all bad. Escort or direct the former employee to retrieve all personal items and hand over any company property or access protocols.

vii. Parting steps – Depending on company policy, have him/her complete exit procedures, shake hands, and escort him/her to the exit.

We trust you will find these suggestions useful. As you become seasoned as a supervisor and in the utilisation of structured performance management procedures, you will notice that there will be less need to terminate based on poor performance.

All the best.


Career Advisor

Carolyn Marie Smith is associate vice-president of Student Services at Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, Manchester. Submit your questions to her at

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