Ask Carla: How do you fire someone?

Q: I’m a business owner and have just recently hired employees. Now I have to let one go. I am a bit nervous as I have never had to do this before. Can you offer any advice about how to go about it? I have nothing in place for this, no set guidelines or rules or even forms! HELP!


A: Letting an employee go is hard not only on the employee, but also on the employer, and the other employees in your company. It is a decision that should never be taken lightly.
Common reasons for firing an employee include:

  • Performance-related issues
  • Poor personality fit or attitude fit with company
  • Attendance issues
  • Violating company policies
  • Lack of work
  • Company reorganization

Here are some quick tips on the do’s and don’ts of terminating an employee:

  1. Make sure the decision is well-reasoned and thought out, and then if the decision is made to terminate, act quickly so that it does not continue to negatively affect you or other employees.
  2. If firing due to performance-related reasons, ensure that multiple meetings have been held with the employee prior to making the firing decision to address and correct the performance issue.
  3. Be respectful and discreet when having the termination meeting.
  4. Ensure that your severance or notice arrangements meet legal requirements. Consult an employment lawyer if necessary.
  5. Ensure that you have a written termination letter which documents the terms and conditions of the termination.
  6. The reason for firing the employee should be business-related or due to performance issues, not due to personal, subjective or emotional opinions about the employee.
  7. Don’t make a decision to terminate for cause without conducting a proper investigation. The decision should be based on an objective series of facts, not one or two individual opinions or stories.
  8. Don’t hold the termination meeting in a public place. The meeting should be held in a private location, free from disruptions. However, you may want to include a second person to witness the events of the meeting if you think it may be a volatile situation.
  9. Don’t go into a termination meeting unprepared. Prepare the written letter, rehearse what you will say, how you will say it, and in what sequence.
  10. Allow the employee to react and raise questions. Be understanding and sympathetic, but reinforce that the firing decision is definite and final.

Firing an employee is never easy. Make the decision thoughtfully and with care, and then act.

When in doubt, seek the advice of an employment lawyer or contact DiverseHR Consultants prior to making the decision to let the employee go.