How to Fire An Employee the Correct Way: A Guide

Sun, Jun 2, 2024

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It’s hard to fire someone irrespective of their time in the company, but sometimes hard decisions have to be made. If you are looking for a complete guide on how to fire someone nicely, look no further.

How to Fire An Employee the Correct Way: A Guide

Terminating an employee is one of the most challenging tasks a manager or business owner can face. It requires a delicate balance of empathy, clarity, and professionalism. But it can never get easy. Even when done nicely and professionally it can take a turn you are not ready for. If you are a small business owner, then you must prepare for such times, because there will come a day. And even if you have been in the industry for so long, it will still feel like the first time. You have to learn what to say and what not to say and then only you learn how to fire someone nicely. 

This guide aims to help you navigate this difficult process with respect and dignity, providing you with practical scripts and essential information.

  • When’s the Right Time to Let Someone Go

Deciding when to let an employee go is crucial. It’s essential to consider all factors before making this decision to ensure it is justified and unavoidable. Because it will affect a lot of things. From employees’ morale to the environment in the office, so you must be prepared for it. Problems with the employees are common, but that does not mean you can go around firing everyone. 

Performance Issues: Consistently poor performance despite feedback and opportunities for improvement is a common reason for termination. Now performance issues can be anything. 

  1. Maybe they were always late for work, 
  2. Maybe they take too long breaks 
  3. Maybe they do not follow the standard procedures or,
  4. Maybe they are not meeting the standards properly. 

Behavioral Problems: Disruptive behavior, lack of teamwork, or breach of company policies can necessitate termination. If your employee is not behaving professionally, that will cause an issue in the future. Things like - 

  1. They are disrespectful towards other staff
  2. They are disrespectful towards the clients
  3. They have a bad attitude

This raises many concerns for the well-being of the other employees as well. If such issues have been raised already, there is no positive outcome to be seen. Then you know it’s time. But still you will need to take proper steps and learn how to terminate someone nicely. 

Company Downsizing: Sometimes, external factors like economic downturns or restructuring require letting employees go. It’s not always the employee’s fault when they get fired. Sometimes other factors come in in which nothing can be done. When the company is facing some loss and there is not enough cash flow then also you will need to fire someone. In this situation, the employee and the employers are not at fault. You just have to choose the most perfect employee you will keep.

  • Scripts on How to Fire Someone

Using the right words can make the process less painful for both parties. Although it never gets easy having a how to fire someone nicely template makes it simple. Here are some scripts to help guide the conversation.

Performance-Based Termination:

“Hi [Employee’s Name], I appreciate you taking the time to meet with me. Over the past few months, we’ve discussed several performance issues and provided feedback and support to help you improve. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen the necessary improvements. Therefore, we have decided to terminate your employment effective immediately. This decision is final, and it’s essential for us to move forward in a different direction. We are grateful for your efforts and wish you the best in your future endeavors.”

Behavioral Termination:

“Hi [Employee’s Name], thank you for coming in. We need to talk about some serious issues that have occurred. Despite multiple warnings and attempts to rectify the situation, there have been continued behavioral problems that disrupt our team and work environment. As a result, we have decided to terminate your employment effective immediately. This is not a decision we take lightly, but it is necessary for the health of our team. We appreciate your contributions and hope you find success in the future.”

Company Downsizing:

“Hi [Employee’s Name], thank you for joining me today. Due to recent changes and the need to restructure our company, we are unfortunately required to downsize our workforce. This means your position is being eliminated, effective immediately. This is a difficult decision for us, and it’s not a reflection of your performance. We truly appreciate your hard work and dedication. We will provide support to help you transition during this period.”

  • What to Say When Firing Someone

When firing someone, it’s essential to be clear, concise, and compassionate. Here are some key points to include in your conversation:

  1. State the Reason: Clearly explain why the termination is happening. Clear communication is a must. No need to give long speeches or to beat around the bush. When you are talking to the concerned person, make sure they are understanding.  

  2. Be Direct: Avoid beating around the bush; be straightforward. Always prefer to do it face-to-face if possible. Even if you are a fully remote business, firing someone over email or via phone is not professional. 

  3. Express Empathy: Show that you understand this is a difficult situation. If you want to learn how to fire an employee the correct way this is the right option. You need to show that you heard the employee and understand what they might feel. 

  4. Offer Support: Provide information on severance, benefits, and outplacement services. Showing compassion will help you as some employees might get emotional. Compassion shows humanity and if provided with the correct feedback it will save you a lot of time too. 


“[Employee’s Name], we’ve had multiple discussions about [specific issue]. Despite our efforts, there hasn’t been a significant improvement. As a result, we’ve decided to terminate your employment. I know this is tough news, and I want to ensure you have the support you need. We will provide you with [details of severance, benefits, etc.]. Thank you for your time and contributions to the company.”

  • What Not to Say When Firing Someone

Avoiding certain phrases can help prevent additional hurt and legal complications. Here’s what to steer clear of:

  1. Personal Attacks: Don’t criticize the person; focus on the behavior or performance. Maintain dignity and do not pass any unnecessary comments. As you have taken time to fire someone, make sure you take time to decide what needs to be said and how. 

  2. Vague Reasons: Be specific about why the termination is happening. Clear communication is always going to be important. It makes the employee realize on how to get fired gracefully as when they are aware, they will not create any scene. 

  3. False Promises: Don’t promise future employment opportunities unless certain. Do not give any hope if you have nothing left to say. You might feel uncomfortable while having this conversation, but it’s never a good idea to make any promise you might not be able to deliver. 

  4. Overly Apologetic: While empathy is important, don’t apologize excessively as it can confuse the message. As said before, you do not need to give long speeches. You might feel the need to justify your decision but that will not help you at the end. It can be irritating and sometimes humiliating to the employee. 


Avoid saying, “I’m sorry, but we have to let you go because the team thinks you’re not a good fit.” Instead, say, “We’ve decided to terminate your employment due to consistent performance issues despite the feedback and support provided.”

It’s crucial to ensure that your reasons for termination are legally sound. Here are some common legal reasons:

  1. Poor Performance: Documented and consistently poor job performance. It goes without saying that poor performance is the most used reason to fire someone. According to the Employment standards ontario, if the standards are not met the employee can be terminated. 

  2. Misconduct: Inappropriate behavior, including harassment, theft, or violation of company policies. Bullying, violence, aggression, or disregard for safety counts as misconduct. This will also cause the employee to be given a termination letter. 

  3. Attendance Issues: Chronic lateness or absenteeism despite warnings. Any business will give warnings before they take any strict actions. If an employee is causing the company any time that can be spent on doing some important things then the company will think about letting him go.

  4. Company Needs: Business reasons such as downsizing or restructuring. If the company is facing any kind of loss they will take some actions. In this case, the company has to let some people go and usually the person who underperforms in their job roles is terminated. Work schedules are important, but if they see that there is enough free time in any employee’s schedule, then they will terminate. And it will not come under wrongful termination. 

  • Illegal Reasons to Fire Someone

Firing an employee for illegal reasons can lead to serious legal consequences. Here are some reasons that are not legally acceptable:

  1. Discrimination: Firing based on race, gender, age, religion, or other protected characteristics. There are strict laws under which the company will face heavy consequences if the employee decides to take action. 

  2. Retaliation: Terminating an employee for reporting illegal activities or for whistleblowing. There are laws such as the Civil Rights Act, Americans With Disabilities Act, Equal Pay Act, etc. They will protect the employees against retaliation.  

  3. Refusal to Commit Illegal Acts: Firing someone for refusing to participate in illegal activities. Similarly, if a person reports any wrongdoings that the company is doing and the company decides to take action. That will also come under wrongful termination. 

  4. Protected Leave: Terminating an employee while on protected leave (e.g., FMLA, ADA). Now even if an employee is on maternity leave, they are protected according to the Employment standards ontario. 


Avoid saying, “We’re letting you go because you’re getting too old for this job.” Instead, ensure your reasons are performance or behavior-based and documented.

Additional Tip

Listen to what the Employee has to say 

Even if you are terminating the employee do not forget that they have been an integral part of your company for so long. So, even when you are letting them go, listen to what they have to say as well.

This will give you an insight into your management practices and help you improve in the future. 

Now this can be done by various means -

  1. On the spot
  2. Over a Google Meet
  3. By filling out a form 

Keep in mind some basic etiquette while doing that such as giving your employees full attention, letting them speak without any interruptions, and keeping the conversation private. Also, make sure that you do not get offended by the reviews they have to share. 

End the conversation on a positive note and thank them for their time for the company. You can also wish them the best them luck for the future. 


Firing someone is never easy, but handling the process with care and respect is crucial. By being clear, compassionate, and legally compliant, you can make this difficult task a little more bearable for both you and the employee. Remember, how you handle terminations can impact your company’s reputation and workplace morale, so take the time to do it right. If you want to have a good brand image in the business industry you will need to be careful and avoid any conflicts.

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