Telling someone they've lost their job is never easy. But with the right preparation, you can make it go smoothly.
Step 1: Document your case Document all the actions leading up to the dismissal: the employee's misdeeds, your repeated warnings, and – if you can – their acknowledgement that they received these warnings. It's good practice in general, plus it will be useful if the employee sues for wrongful termination.
Step 2: Do it on a Monday Though employers tend to let people go at the end of the work week, it's more considerate to do it at the beginning of the week, when they can sign up for unemployment and start their job hunt, instead of making them stew all weekend.
Step 3: Do it in person Fire them in person. It's unprofessional, not to mention cold-hearted, to inform someone via email or voice mail.
TIP: Have a witness who can attest to how everything went down, just in case your professionalism is called into question.
Step 4: Be direct Be direct. Tell them why they are being let go, when they can expect their final paycheck, and whether they are getting severance. Don't beat around the bush – it will only make the news harder to absorb.
Step 5: Be brief Be brief. You don't want to give the impression the subject is open to debate. And keep it professional. Avoid personal statements like, "I really feel bad about this," which could encourage them to respond in kind, dragging you into a messy conversation.
TIP: Keep a box of tissues handy.
Step 6: Have them leave immediately It's become common practice to ask the person to leave as soon as they've settled their affairs with the Human Resources department. If your company handles sensitive information, or if you believe the person may try to retaliate, consider escorting them out of the building and shipping their personal effects to them.
TIP: Have someone shut down their computer access while they are being fired, and retrieve company property like a PDA and office keys from them before they leave.
Step 7: Take notes As soon as the meeting is over, while your memory is still fresh, write down a detailed account of what happened to document that you went by the book.
FACT: One of the most frequently cited reasons for firing an employee is poor attendance.