Seven things to do when letting someone go

When you terminate an employee, the words should be simple and to the point


You’ve decided to let a low performer go. What’s the best way to deliver the news?

Here are seven tips:

1 Don’t drag your feet “When the bad outweighs the good, and when the employee is causing more problems than he or she is solving, it’s time for that employee to go,” says Jodi Glickman, founder of the communication consulting firm Great on the Job. Firing should be the final step in a fair, transparent process that begins long before the termination talk – and there should be a paperwork trail.

2 Make the human resources office your ally Dick Grote, a management consultant in Dallas, suggests double-checking your plans with HR. You want to ensure that an HR representative is able to attend the meeting, since it’s legally practical and more comfortable to have someone else in the room.

3 Keep it short When you terminate an employee, the words should be simple and to the point. Glickman suggests you begin by saying: “I have some bad news for you. Today is your last day here.” Then state the reason for termination in one simple sentence.

4 Stay in the room Be prepared to answer questions. Before the meeting, you need to be well-versed on practical matters – the details of the former employee’s severance agreement and what happens to his benefits and unused vacation time, for example.

5 Show compassion “If you genuinely believe someone is a good person who has talents and abilities that could be useful elsewhere, tell her that you’re very happy to provide a reference, or offer to make introductions,” Glickman says.

6 Talk to your team After the person leaves, Glickman suggests gathering the colleagues who will be affected by the termination. “The message should be direct and straightforward,” she says.

7 Focus on the future Acknowledge that there’s more work to do in the short term, but talk about a goal.

Copyright Harvard Business Review 2016