How to Terminate

“I need to fire an employee but it’s my first time. How do I do it?”

Your HR Survival Tip

Firing an employee can be an emotional experience for both of you. This is one reason we prefer to keep these meetings very short. The first step is to plan the timing and prepare the needed documents.

Although Friday afternoon has been a favorite time to fire employees, it’s not really the right time. If the employee is upset, they now are dwelling on it all weekend instead of talking to people about a new job. As a rule, first thing in the morning, during lunch when there are fewer coworkers around, or at the end of the day seems to work best.

The documents you are required to give the employee include the following:

  • Change in Relationship form;
  • Your electronic paystub must include all the legally required information.
  • EDD unemployment booklet;
  • Their final paycheck, which includes at least enough pay to cover the termination meeting plus hours worked previously and any unused vacation/PTO hours;
  • A wage statement (pay stub) that details all their pay and every deduction. We don’t recommend a termination letter because it’s too easy for anything you might write to potentially be used against you;
  • Plus any documentation needed regarding their employee benefits.

You’re now ready to have the meeting. As mentioned above, keep it short and keep it focused. “Sam, we’ve had several discussions previously about your poor attendance but things are not improving. I have decided it’s time to part ways, effective immediately. Let’s go through the termination paperwork.” Don’t let this turn into a major discussion or negotiation. If you’re willing to negotiate, you shouldn’t be doing the termination yet.

Obviously, this discussion could easily go sideways on you if you haven’t actually been talking with the employee about poor attendance, poor performance, etc. It’s poor management on your part if this termination is a complete surprise to Sam. You really should have already let Sam know that whatever he’s doing could lead to termination… that knowledge will often motivate the employee to try to do better.

Disliking having to fire someone is not a good reason for holding on to an employee that you should terminate. That person can easily bring down the productivity or motivation of your other employees. Be kind and respectful during the process and you’ll both survive the meeting.

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