5 Ways To Make Firing Someone Less Painful

Time to cut someone loose? Even if it’s long past time for them to go, firing an employee can be difficult. Follow these five tips and you’ll be on the road to happiness again.

5 Ways To Make Firing Someone Less Painful


Parting is such sweet sorrow–unless you’re saying goodbye to an employee who should have been gone a long time ago. Here are five tips to make firing someone easier on the both of you.

Get to the point. Long goodbyes are painful, so be brief. This isn’t the time to remind the employee about every conversation you had regarding his performance, nor is it the time to tell the employee how talented he is as you are showing him the door.

Prepare a brief statement and stick to your script. It’s those who veer off course that find themselves driving over a cliff.

Expect the worse. This isn’t going to be one of those situations where you come together and sing “Kumbaya.” This is going to be a tough conversation, even if you suspect the employee knows it’s coming. Be prepared. If you think there is a chance the employee will go crazy, then have someone from HR sitting by your side or another manager who can help diffuse what may be a hot situation.

Terminations are fairly standard. Anticipate questions that may be asked and have an answer ready. This will prevent you from having to get back in touch with an employee who may try to pull you back into the conversation you just had.

Don’t try and have the last word. Okay, so you wanted to say the words, “You’re fired,” and you’ve finally gotten the nerve. You may be thinking that you aren’t going to let anyone take this satisfaction away from you. Be open to the possibility that an employee may ask to resign.


Consider this request carefully and if asked, say yes. The objective is to remove this employee from the organization. It’s better for all, if the employee leaves with his dignity in hand and it may save your organization from having to go through a nasty unemployment hearing or worse yet, a wrongful discharge suit.

Find a quiet place. In workplaces where everyone works in the open, this may sound easier than it is. Look for a conference room with shades so you can shield the employee from having others observe his last hour at the office.

If no such place exists, look for a quiet table in a coffee shop where you can have a conversation. Or, wait until others have left the office so you can take care of the business at hand.

Just do it! I know business owners who are still talking about people they should have fired years ago, yet these employees are still with the firm. Pick a date and move forward.

If things haven’t gotten any better in a year’s time or more, they certainly aren’t going to improve anytime soon. Do yourself and your employee a favor. Say sayonara so you both can get on with your lives.

Roberta Chinsky Matuson is president of Human Resource Solutions ( and author of Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around, a Washington Post top-5 leadership pick. Sign up to receive a complimentary subscription to Roberta’s monthly newsletter, HR Matters.


[Image: Flickr user Vicente Villamón]

About the author

For more than 25 years, Roberta Chinsky Matuson, president of Matuson Consulting, has helped leaders in Fortune 500 companies, including Best Buy, New Balance, The Boston Beer Company and small to medium-size businesses, achieve dramatic growth and market leadership through the maximization of talent. She is known world-wide as “The Talent Maximizer®.” Roberta, a leading authority on leadership and the skills and strategies required to earn employee commitment and client loyalty, is the author of the top-selling book, Suddenly In Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around (Nicholas Brealey, 2011), a Washington Post Top 5 Business Book For Leaders.