The First-Time Manager’s Guide to Letting Go of Employees


The majority of managers, new or old, place firing people at the very top of their responsibility lists. Truth be told, terminating a staff member is never going to be easy. However, you can rely upon a few tips to help ensure the process is run smoothly and is less intimidating.

Avoid Surprises

The most critical part of terminating an employee is to make sure they have a feeling it’s coming. Your job as a manager is to ensure that you watch your entire team, and if you notice your expectations aren’t being met, you need to tell them. It gives them the chance to change before things get worse.

Sit down with your employee who is having issues, and provide them with honest feedback on their job performance. Ensure that you do this in a way that makes your employee seem like it isn’t a personal attack. You can do that by offering improvement suggestions, helping with professional blind-spots, and talking about company commitment.

Be Clear About Consequences

There are plenty of times where providing feedback causes your employee to straighten up and perform better. However, there are just as many that don’t. At that point, it’s best to bring in Human Resources or your boss so that you can assess the situation with them. They can inform you of the company protocol for performance improvement, these usually come in writing.

When you have performance protocols in writing, it can help drastically. You can then make sure that there are specific examples provided in the improvement plan, and offer them the next steps and milestones that they need to improve. You also need to warn the staff member that consequences are there if performance doesn’t improve. You can clearly outline the specific implications for under-performance; even when it includes termination.

Have “the Talk”

You’ve put in a lot of effort thus far to ensure that your employee’s performance improves, but if it doesn’t, it’s time to have “the talk.” Your team member should know it’s coming, and might even choose to resign in anticipation of their termination. Sitting someone down to tell them they’re fired isn’t easy; here are some additional tips for when that day comes:

  • Involve Human Resources: It’s imperative that you have your boss, or human resources, at the meeting with you to show support and be a witness. You also need to have your legal requirements in a row and sometimes their final paycheck. Additionally, be prepared for questions about severance and unemployment benefits.
  • Practice: As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. Try making up a script for yourself before the meeting so that you can stay on track. It’s best to go over it with HR or your boss so you have their stamp of approval first. You can tell the employee that you are referring to notes if you lose your place.
  • Stay Calm: During the process, adequately explain to your staff member why they are being let go. It’s also essential that you remind them of the previous communications you had with them. As the manager, you do need to stay calm and on-point. Though, if your employee needs to vent emotionally, don’t discourage it.
  • Keep it Private: Your employee doesn’t want to be humiliated in front of other staff members. Ensure that your team is out of the area, and your meeting is entirely private. You can even offer them a later time to pick up their personal belongings.
  • Be Empathetic: It is appropriate to thank your employee for the positive contributions they’ve made with the company in the past; if you mean it. Though, there is no need to sugar coat anything if they’ve been forewarned.

The feeling of firing someone sucks, but it’s important to remember to be prepared, use open communication, and have clear goals and consequences that help make the process easier. If your employee knows what to expect, it helps both of you during the process and adds some dignity to an ugly outcome.


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The First-Time Manager’s Guide to Letting Go of Employees

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