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How to Terminate an Employee’s Employment Without Taking it Personally

There are many reasons why as an employer, you would want to terminate an employee’s contract. If you think you have fair ground for letting someone go, you need to make sure you do it correctly. The UK Government offers employers a look into the right dismissal procedures.

It might be hard to terminate an employee’s employment if it happens out of your control. Especially, if you’re acting on someone else’s behalf or if you’ve become particularly close to that person.

What’s important to remember, however, is to act fairly and in everyone’s best interest. Here are a few simple things that can help you terminate an employee’s employment and how to not take it personally.

Make sure they understand what’s happening

When you are about to fire an employee, chance is they already know what’s coming. However, it’s important to be clear from the start of the meeting. Try to deliver the bad news as soon as you’re face to face with the person.

Be honest and clear with them. Tell them why you’re seeing them right away and that the final decision has been made. You are there to pass on the news, not to give a warning. It’s necessary for the employee to know how they stand regarding the decision if there’s a room for improvement or not.

Together with the news, also give the reason why. If there has been a previous warning, remind them where they stood in the past and why the company came to their decision.

Don’t deliver the news outside of working hours

If you and the employee have a personal relationship, make sure not to deliver the news outside of the workplace. They might not take it well and it would put you in an uncomfortable position.

If the employee has heard the news from someone else and they’re contacting you directly, tell them when and where you would discuss the situation. It is important your roles remain well-defined and your position is not compromised.

Make the meeting formal

Especially if you have an outside-of-work relationship with the employee, make sure the meeting appears formal from the start. They need to understand in what capacity you are there and that you won’t be discussing personal matters.

Body language is as important as words, so do present yourself as professionally as possible. Don’t fall into chit-chats before giving the news and avoid answering questions unrelated to the company’s policy on employees’ dismissal.

Be a delegate

Remember that your job is to represent the company you work for and that you might not have been necessarily in charge of the decision. This doesn’t mean that you can or should state your own opinion to the employee. Everything you say in the meeting should be on behalf of the company.

If it helps, you can make your role clear at the beginning of the conversation. It could refrain the employee to make it personal and it would distance you from personal feelings.

However, if the employee does take the decision personally, remind them of your position. You might get yelled at, but this won’t help anyone and you should invite the employee to not discuss it with you, as it’s outside of your powers to change the decision.

Be prepared

There is nothing worse than an employee asking questions you can’t answer. If you’re letting an employee go, you should know the full circumstance. Before approaching the employee, make sure you know why the decision was made, what is going to happen and how you can help.

Most likely, the dismissed employee will ask you about their pay, their holiday entitlement, when they need to leave the premises and if they can finish their day. It is necessary you know the answers to all of these questions.

Have a witness

It might not be within the company’s policy, but if you need to, have a witness during the meeting. It would eliminate any personal tension in the air and it would give both parties the reassurance of having a third pair of eyes in the room.

Witnesses are also useful if you’re expecting the employee not to be happy about the decision. If there are any harsh grounds, a bystander can offer a more reliable account of what happened in the moment of dismissal.

Follow the right procedures

In any circumstance, it is essential to follow the right procedures when dismissing an employee. Sometimes, this could mean it would actually be best to give a warning first, or a performance review.

Make sure you are not breaching anyone’s contract, otherwise you would be liable for a lawsuit. Today, employees are much better represented and supported than ever before, and if they think there is any case for unfair or constructive dismissal they can easily act against the company.

When dismissing an employee, you should follow the ACAS code. The code explains the rights of both the employer and the employees and it offers a guide to the best dismissal procedure.

Be encouraging

Once the meeting is over, there is no need to end it on a bad note. Instead, try to be as encouraging as possible and don’t humiliate the employee.

If the reason for their dismissal has to do with performance, you can sincerely offer your advice on the matter. They might even ask you what their next step should be in order to get better at their job. There is no reason for you not to be honest in this circumstance.


By Ella Patenall

Inspiring Interns & Graduates is the UK’s leading graduate recruitment agency, based in London. Since 2009, they’ve placed over 7,500 candidates and worked with 3,000 companies.