How do you fire someone nicely? This is the dilemma most employers or business owners find themselves in: telling an employee, ‘You’re Fired!’
Sadly, as an employer, you might have to say it at some point in your business.
That being said, how do you fire someone nicely?
In other words, how do you maintain the topmost level of professionalism when relieving an employee of their duties?
Before you make the tough decision to fire someone, there must be overwhelming reasons to back up that decision.
Therefore, you might be tempted to think there is no point in being polite when doing so.
After all, you are the one in charge, the one who hired the person in question.
Therefore, you have the autonomy to let go when you so desire.
However, relieving an employee or a contractor of his/her duty is not as simple as saying ‘You are fired!’.
There is a right and professional way of doing this in the business space, and it is something you should learn.
This is because failure to follow the right procedure when firing someone can cause considerable damage.
This is damage to the person being fired and even your business.
As a matter of fact, you can actually get sued by an employee who has been unlawfully or wrongly fired.
Hence, we cannot stress the importance of learning to fire someone nicely and following the right procedures.
Let’s show you how.
First Off, What Does It Mean To Fire Someone?
Without mincing words, to fire someone means to terminate the person’s employment with your firm or organization.
Usually, an individual starts working for an establishment or organization when he/she is hired to do so.
Sometimes, this work is full-time or part-time, and their employment might be permanent or even contractual.
The nature of the contract depends on the decision of the person hiring, which is usually the owner of the company through his/her human resource manager.
Upon employment and a contractual agreement, the prospective employee receives the job description and roles from the employer.
He/she is expected to carry out those tasks with dedication, commitment, and hard work.
Sometimes, along the line in your business, you might see why it is no longer profitable for you and the business to continue your relationship with an employee.
After careful consideration to see a favorable resolution, you might decide that it’s better to let them go.
This is when you terminate that person’s employment, or in other words, fire the individual.
Once an employee is fired, it means the individual is no longer recognized as a part of the organization he/she formerly belonged to.
The organization or company also detaches itself from the person and sever all connections and ties with him/her.
There are rare cases when an employee is fired for no just cause.
However, there is usually a reason why you may decide to fire someone.
Also, most often than not, these reasons are tied to shortcomings from the employee.
Let’s consider what these reasons are.
Reasons You Might Need To Fire Someone
There are various reasons why people get fired from their jobs.
As an employer, you might see the need to relieve an employee of their role in your organization for one or more of the following reasons:
This is one of the most popular reasons why employees lose their jobs.
When employed, you most likely gave them job roles, requirements, and a job description.
In addition to that, there are certain Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you give to your employees.
These KPIs are meant to measure performance and ensure that they add value to your business with their roles.
When an employee fails to meet these standards, consistently makes mistakes, is lazy at work, not diligent in his/her duties, or does not positively impact your business after considerable time, it leads to poor performance and lack of productivity.
Overall, these are enough reasons to fire someone.
When someone has a bad attitude, it can also be another reason to fire the employee.
A bad attitude might involve rudeness, violent behaviors, bad relationship with fellow employees, lying e.t.c.
It is not enough to fire someone instantly because of noticeable imperfections as business owners or employers.
Of course, you have brought such behavior to the employee’s notice in question to change them.
However, if there is no sign of change or improvement after some time, it could be a reason to fire the person.
Lying To Get The Job
Before getting a job, applicants usually go through a recruitment exercise.
This exercise is meant to test the candidates.
To select those who are most qualified for the advertised/vacant role.
Sometimes, in a bid to beat the competition, some job applicants lie in their job applications.
They might lie about their age, their educational background, previous job experience, e.t.c.
If you should find out about such deceits along the line, it can be a valid reason to fire an employee.
Sometimes, an employee might have cases of misconduct in the workplace that are minor.
Such misconducts include late-coming, arguments, squabbles in the workplace, failure to meet deadlines, swearing e.t.c.
However, there are cases whereby such an employee engages in serious misconduct.
This serious misconduct might involve sexual harassment, rape, theft, scam, scandals, or even murder.
As an employer, cases of serious or gross misconduct are genuine reasons to fire someone.
Downsizing Due To Low Income/Revenue
It is also not uncommon for businesses or employers to fire someone when there is a need to downsize on staff.
This might be necessitated by a decrease in business patronage leading to less income and revenue.
However, firing employees should not be the first option when the business finances are running dry as an employer.
You might need to consider other options like diversifying your products and services, intensifying marketing efforts, or even implementing pay-cut.
It is only when all these methods are not working that you might consider the option of firing someone or more of your employees to stay afloat.
This can equally fit under bad attitudes from employees.
If you have someone on your team who is disrespectful and does not regard set policies and authority, thereby being insubordinate, it’s a bad sign.
After trying to correct such one, if there are no improvements, it might be a reason to fire someone.
Employee Causing Bad Reputation For The Brand
One of the most important things to you as a business owner is your brand name and reputation.
In fact, you should go to any length to protect it, as that is your business identity and determines how far you will go.
Do you have someone working in your ranks whose conduct and attitude pose a big threat to your brand reputation?
At such times, it might be best to take the tough decision of firing such a person.
Revealing Company’s Trade Secrets
Depending on the industry you belong to, your company might have certain trade secrets and maybe the company’s recipes.
In such an organization, part of the documents that a new employee signs include a non-disclosure agreement.
This is provided in a bid to protect the company’s secrets from competitors.
What happens when you find one of your employees giving out this confidential document to others, probably your competitors.
Such an employee has put your company in a tough situation and is a valid reason to fire someone.
Other Illegal Practices
Actually, any illegal practices can get someone fired from his/her place of work.
This might range from illegal possession of firearms to possession of hard drugs or forging the company’s document or the signatures of executives.
When you notice such behaviors, firing the employee involved is the right thing to do.
Inappropriate Reasons To Fire Someone
As you’ve seen, there are valid reasons why you as an employer might decide to fire someone in your organization.
However, there are certain reasons why some business owners today fire employees, which are rather illegal or inappropriate.
If you fire someone for one of these reasons, it would be termed an unfair termination, and it won’t count as firing nicely.
Here are some of them:
Cultural Or Racial Differences
This is termed discriminatory termination of employment.
Sadly, some employers today can relieve employees of their duties for frivolous reasons.
It might be because they do not like their race or where they come from.
If you are to fire someone because of this reason, that would be an inappropriate reason and a bad decision.
Another form of discrimination in the workplace that can get someone fired is gender discrimination.
Are you an employer who is more fond of a particular gender than the other one?
Well, you might have your preferences for reasons best known to you.
But you should be professional enough to know that it shouldn’t affect your decision as to who works with you or who has to go.
If you fire someone because of their sex or gender, that is an illegal and inappropriate ground for termination.
In many countries, the law protects those with disabilities and allows them equal employment rights.
Therefore, you are not allowed to fire someone simply because they are disabled.
As long their disabilities do not affect their productivity and performance, the condition itself is not grounds for terminating their employment.
If you were to do that, it would be inappropriate.
One other reason why you might fire someone unjustly is if your reasons are based on their choice of religion.
This is especially so if you do business in a country where there is the freedom to choose what religion to practice.
As such, you will be going against the employee’s fundamental human rights if you were to dismiss him/her on the grounds of the religion they belong to.
You Don’t Like How They Look
It might sound funny, but do you know that some employers fire people because they don’t just like how they look?
They might have a problem with their looks, structure, personal appearance, dressing mode of dressing, e.t.c.
These reasons are just as flimsy as they get, and it is an inappropriate reason to fire someone.
The Employee Has Worked With You For ‘Too’ Many Years
As an employer or business owner, you cannot just wake up one day, get excited, and fire someone because he has been with you for ‘too’ long.
Perhaps you feel the staff is not at pace with current systems and methods, and you need someone more modern.
Sadly, you will need to solve that problem another way but not firing the employee.
Unless there is a law on retirement age and the individual has reached that stipulated age.
But even at that, you do not unceremoniously fire such a person but allow them to resign, stating retirement as the reason.
Why Should You Fire Someone Nicely?
We’ve already analyzed some pertinent reasons why it might be in the best interest of your organization to fire an employee.
However, the focus now is on how you should do this and why you should do it nicely.
In other words, why should you care about being nice when laying off someone, when you can say your ‘GoodByes’ and shut the door?
Well, this is essential for various obvious reasons.
Regardless of the gravity of the offense the person has committed, you need to remember that there was a contractual agreement when you hired the individual.
Hence, for one reason, based on that agreement, you cannot fire the employee unjustly.
Also, no one wants to lose their jobs, especially when it wasn’t a voluntary decision.
Therefore, you would expect that they will receive news of them being fired with a bit of shock and surprise.
As an employer, you want to be polite and kind when dropping this rather sad news into consideration for how they’ll feel.
Additionally, it is important to fire someone nicely because sometimes the firing is not entirely the person’s fault.
Imagine you have to fire someone because you are trying to save costs or are not just a good fit for your organization.
You understand that the individual is not just bad or poor but does not fit into the role you wanted for him/her.
In such circumstances, it is best to fire them nicely if the decision comes down to that.
Finally, letting an employee go is not necessarily the end of your relationship with such an employee.
Even in that difficult moment, you probably still value, care for, and respect them.
What better way to let them know this other than firing them most professionally instead of rudely?
Who knows? You might still have opportunities in the future when it seems more right to work with them, and firing them nicely will not ruin that opportunity.
Overall, it is important to fire someone nicely.
This is so that you don’t burn the bridges of your working relationship, as you never can tell what the future holds.
Therefore, let’s consider how to fire someone nicely.
How To Fire Someone Nicely
So, let us say you have had cause to review the terms of service of an employee and see valid reasons to fire the person.
The onus is now on you to do that most professionally; firing the person nicely.
Here are some steps you can take to ensure you are doing this the right way:
1Ensure You Have A System To Measure Valid Reasons For Termination
When deciding to fire someone, the last thing you want to do is terminate their employment on the wrong grounds.
This might end up ruining your reputation, and you can even get sued for that.
Hence, the first thing you must do even before deciding to fire anyone is to develop a system to determine grounds for termination.
Only when you do this can you ensure you are not making the wrong decision to firing someone.
2Identify The Main Cause For Termination And Let Them Know
As noted earlier, you cannot fire someone based on frivolous excuses, instinct, or intuition.
Therefore, you must do one thing when firing someone nicely to clearly identify and state the main cause for termination.
Therefore when firing someone, give the employee a valid reason for terminating his/her employment.
3Give Repeated Warnings
Except in some gross misconducts or enforced terminations, it is always good to offer warnings to an employee before firing them eventually.
This is important most especially in cases when employment termination is due to poor performance or productivity.
You will show you are a nice employer when you generously and kindly offer repeated warnings to the erring employee.
Thereby allowing him/her to make improvements and changes.
Also, with repeated warnings, it won’t come as a shock or surprise when you eventually fire the employee, as they already understand the reason for that decision.
4Schedule A Meeting Face To Face
Yes, we know you are the boss, the one who decided to hire them, and you have the right to fire them if you deem it fit.
However, don’t fire someone over the phone, in a text message, or on social media.
It is generally better to schedule a face-to-face meeting to announce such a decision.
This is because it shows courtesy and also preserves your honor and respect as an employer.
Also, a face-to-face meeting allows you to properly pass the information without the risk of getting misinterpreted or misunderstood.
If not for anything, you most likely had a face-to-face interview with them when hiring them, and they deserve the same treatment when you’re letting them go.
5Type An Official Letter Of Termination
This also shows a high level of professionalism.
In keeping with the spirit of scheduling a face-to-face meeting, you would not want to announce such news by text or on social media pages.
It is a sign of professionalism on your part to use a letter to communicate this, and also important for documentation.
You can either give this letter to them during the meeting or forward it to their email.
6Choose The Right Place And Time
When firing someone, do not humiliate them by screaming ‘You are fired!” right in a public space or in front of their colleagues.
This will not only humiliate them but will also show a high level of unprofessionalism.
It is better to find a calm and private place, where it is just you and the employee, probably with another member of your HR team.
That way, you can share the news in the most comfortable environment that befits the occasion.
7Keep It Brief, Be Clear, And Don’t Mince Words
You might think that you are doing the former employee a favor by offering compliments and patronizing them when telling them they are fired.
However, it might actually cause more harm than good.
You do not want to leave any doubts in the person’s mind as to why he/she is being fired and what the present situation is with the company.
You must keep the message brief and straight to the point.
While you can let them know you appreciate their input over time, it is also good to let them know it’s over in clear terms.
That way, you help them heal fast and get on with the transition process.
8Help With The Transition Process If Applicable
At times, the reason for letting someone go is not related to poor performance or misconduct but downsizing.
In such cases, you can make the process easier for the person by offering assistance in the transition.
You can offer that he/she use you as a reference when searching for a new job.
Also, you can give them some recommendations as to where to go from here.
So you see, firing someone doesn’t always have to end on a sad note.
9Don’t Exchange Words
While some fired employees do not throw tantrums and simply walk away, others might not take the news that nicely.
They might come at you and question your motive in firing them or try to absorb themselves of any blame to warrant that.
As tempting as it might be, do not exchange words with them.
It would only make the situation get more heated.
Rather, simply reinstate your decision to them so they know you were clear in what you said.
10Once Your Decision Is Made, Don’t Go Back On it
It is possible that after telling someone they are fired, they start pleading for pardon and asking for another opportunity to make things better.
Remember that a letter of termination is not the same as a warning letter.
No matter how sad the situation is or how emotional it gets, do not rescind your decision.
Even if you take the person back, it would adversely affect your relationship with them going forward.
Not only that, your reputation would be affected.
It would be best to consider what other employees would think of you when they hear of it.
It’s in the best interest of you both to stick by your decision.
Some Phrases To Use When Firing Someone Nicely
‘You are fired!’ isn’t really the best choice of phrase when firing someone, especially if you want to be nice doing it.
Try out some of these phrases to give the news a softer landing:
- I’m sorry, but it’s time for us to go separate ways.
- You aren’t the right fit for the culture of this organization at this time.
- We are cutting down on cost, and we have to let you go.
- We believe you will be a better fit in a different organization from this.
- Your services are no longer needed here.
- We no longer wish to continue this relationship.
- It has become difficult for us to afford your services, so we are letting you go.
- Unfortunately, we cannot give you a contract extension.
- We have reached the end of your probationary period.
- We will be relieving you of your duties with ‘XYZ.’
Conclusion On How To Fire Someone Nicely
It’s hard, we know.
Having to fire someone is not a nice experience, and asking you to do it nicely couldn’t be more difficult.
However, for the benefit of your organization, it is a decision you might have to make as a business owner at one point along the line.
By applying some of these guidelines, you will be ready to take up this rather challenging task when it comes, and when you unavoidably need to fire someone, you can do it nicely.