Firing Done Right

Terminating an employee is never an easy process.

Before even getting to the firing, you will likely have had to pass the employee through some difficult disciplinary processes, and worked with your HR specialist to ensure all the steps leading up to and following the actual termination are being done correctly.

Nonetheless, when someone is holding back your team, or bringing down your business from the inside, terminating someone may be the only solution to help you move forward. Here are some ideas to keep in mind about the termination process, and how you can make it easier on yourself and the employee both now and in the long run.

Be Straightforward From Day One

Just as when you lay down reasons for their termination, you should keep your employee appraised from day one of the policies you have regarding behaviour and productivity.

There should be no questions or ambiguity when it comes to making the call to fire someone, as to whether they’ve failed to meet their employment requirements. Things like absence policy, tardiness policy, drug use policy, and any metrics you consider integral to their position, should be laid out during the hiring process. It is good practice to have new employees sign any policies that apply to them, to confirm they have read and understood.

During the termination process, be clear about what policies they have failed to comply with, and what the reason for termination is in their case.

Work With Them To Avoid Termination

Just as you need to be straightforward about what policies your company has, and the type of behaviour you expect from your employees, you need to be honest with them when they begin to slip.

In most cases, negative behaviour and poor performance can be corrected with a bit of patience and willingness to work with the employee and support them while they get to the point you need them to be. When you see signs of potential issues, use a graduating disciplinary system to help correct their course. Be open about what issues you see developing, and why they are being disciplined. Be encouraging and supportive if they show initiative to fix the problem.

This will also give you a proven record about their progress and how you have done your best to avoid termination, should it come to that.

The Termination Meeting

If it comes to the worst case situation, and termination is unavoidable, always be sure that you aren’t breaching any contracts or violating any wrongful termination clauses or laws. You need to do everything you can to protect yourself and your business, while still managing to fire the worker as nicely as possible.

When you sit down with the employee to deliver their termination, try to do it early in the week. It’s a common misconception that ending someone’s employment on a friday is better. In reality, giving someone the weekend to stew in their own thoughts makes it more likely that they will become disgruntled, and may act out towards your company come the next week. Ending things early in the week also allows them to begin contacting new prospective employers during business hours, reducing their stress from losing their source of income.

Be sure to have a witness. This is typically an HR representative, or a senior manager. Never use one of the employee’s coworkers, as you should make it a goal not to humiliate or embarrass the person being terminated. As such, you should remain professional and avoid getting emotionally involved in the meeting. Allow them to, if they do. Having a box of tissues, and some positive feedback as well as the negative, will help smooth things over and let the employee feel less devalued by the experience.

When delivering the news, be short and sweet. Do not get sidetracked on long conversations, or let the employee draw you into a debate. Say your peace, let them know the decision is final, and move on to the necessary paperwork, or whatever remains to be done in this particular termination.

If you can, you may wish for them to sign a release to protect yourself from legal trouble. If you do so, be sure to have it drafted and reviewed by proper legal counsel. Some employers choose to incentive the signing of a release with a more generous severance package. Be sure to provide a record of employment, and severance comparable to the law or any employment contract, regardless.

After the Termination

Hopefully the terminated employee can be civil, but you should preemptively prepare for handling a disgruntled ex-worker.

In addition to your witness, ensure there are security measures and/or personnel in place to assist. Escort the terminated employee completely off the premises, and collect any security passes, badges, keys or otherwise that may be used for reentry. It is a best practice to collect the employee’s belongings on their behalf; consider having another party do so while the termination and exit interview is taking place. This way you don’t have to let the employee pass through any active workspaces, saving you from further confrontations or from causing them further embarrassment.

It should also go without saying that you will need to promptly provide coverage for their workload. This will likely mean distributing their responsibilities over other team members. Be sure to explain, without detail, that their coworker has been terminated, and then what you will need from them until the position can be filled once again. In companies with corporate emails, one of the key items will be forwarding any contact to another person, typically their supervisor, until clients can be notified as well. And just like with physical access, don’t forget to close out their digital access, including general logins, email, and access to any important shared business accounts.


A termination is hard on both the employee and employer. Both of you should try to see it as a learning opportunity, and always move forward as professionally as possible. And, when at all possible, termination should be kept as a last resort. It is in both parties’ interest to do so.

But when it comes to the last straw, use these helpful tips to ensure you are doing your best to assuage the situation and make the most out of a difficult experience.

Belleville Office

Unit 8, 161 Bridge Street W. 
Belleville, ON K8P 1K2

Phone: 613-966-9069
Toll Free: 1-888-401-9636
Fax: 613-966-7357

Marmora Office

By Appointment Only
Itinerant Services 

Phone: 613-966-9069
Toll Free: 1-888-401-9636
Fax: 613-966-7357