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How to properly terminate an employee

Even though you're letting go of an employee, it's important to thank them for the valuable contributions they made during their employment. [iStockphoto]

Firing someone is never easy, almost no one believes that they will, actually, get fired. Knowing how to properly terminate the employment of an employee can, however, make the process more efficient, for both parties. Here's what you need to know:

Act quickly

Once you have a well-thought-out reason for terminating an employee, make your decision and act on it quickly. Since the reason you're firing them likely has to do with the effect they're having on the company or your employees, it's best to put a stop to it as soon as possible.

Prepare a termination letter

While you shouldn't make the termination meeting longer than it should be, make sure to cover all of the essentials. Prepare a transition document that highlights important details regarding their termination.

Be specific regarding the next steps such as their last day of employment, their final paycheck, their benefits, ongoing projects and their unused vacation days.

Make sure everything's definite and that they have all the information they need before the end of the meeting. Have them sign the termination document and give them a copy of it. You should also keep a copy in the personnel file.

Document issues and warnings before the termination

Before you terminate an employee, make sure you've documented the various reasons that lead to your decision. For example, perhaps, an employee consistently threatened colleagues. Take note of each of the instances. In addition, take note of any warnings you've given your employee, such as poor performance. Have proof of your efforts to notify them of their shortcomings.

Present your documentation to the termination meeting

Have your documentation in order before the start of the meeting. Bring performance reviews, written warnings and relevant correspondence you've had with the employee during their employment. This allows you to review them and have proof of the reason why you're terminating their employment.

Use a checklist

Use an employment termination checklist to keep you focused when you meet with the employee you plan to let go. Having a checklist ensures you address everything you need to during the meeting.

Your checklist should essentially provide you with guidance on how to let the employee know what they can expect legally and from your company once you end their employment. The checklist also serves as proof of what was discussed during the meeting.

Set a private location

Hold the termination meeting in a private location, such as your office. Make sure the location you choose prevents interruptions and isn't subject to observation. Since it's a sensitive matter, it's important to treat it as such and give the employee the courtesy of holding the meeting in a private location.

Hold the termination meeting at the end of the day

Be respectful of the situation and the employee you're letting go by opting for a quieter time of day for the termination meeting. Instead of letting an employee go in the middle of the day, wait until the end of their workday when fewer people are around. This avoids unnecessary questions and prying eyes.

Be respectful

When you meet with the employee, treat them with kindness and respect. Instead of arguing, be firm, polite and professional as you inform them of your decision. Even though you're letting them go, ending on a cordial note helps them feel grateful for the time they spent with your company.

Listen to what they have to say

When you terminate an employee, they may react in shock, denial, anger or grief. Take the time to listen to what they have to say to determine their exact emotions regarding the news of their termination. Knowing how they feel about the situation can help you provide them with the right response.

Allow them to ask questions

The employee you let go of has the right to ask questions regarding your decision. Give them the time to ask anything they'd like about why you chose to dismiss them and about the next steps.

People have different reactions to this type of situation, it's important to give them the time to voice their thoughts. Provide them with honest answers and avoid a debate or a heated argument.

Change security account information and logins

Even if you no longer grant them access to your company's systems, make sure to change the passwords and computer access logins and entry codes as a precaution.

If they feel bitter about their termination, changing this information prevents them from doing something maliciously such as logging in and stealing information from your organization.

Thank them for their contributions

Even though you're letting go of an employee, it's important to thank them for the valuable contributions they made during their employment.

This helps you end the meeting on a positive note and shows them that you value them despite having to let them go. Make sure to wish them well and shake their hand before their departure.