Don’s Diatribe: Firing employees

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Last time, we examined a little bit of the process for hiring good employees. When looking for the right person, you want to look for individuals who are reliable, share your vision of the company, are capable of contributing to the business’ growth and welcome positive change. Sometimes, however, employees just don’t work out.

As much as you’d probably like to avoid it, firing has its place in the growth of a successful business. You owe it to the existence of your company to replace underperforming employees. Most employees are aware that they are underperforming, and they are usually as unhappy in their jobs as you are in having them there. That being said, terminating someone can still be an unpleasant task. Here are a few tips for firing the right way:

1) Fire only after all possible alternatives have been explored. There are many reasons why an employee may be underperforming. Consider a demotion, probation period or perhaps some retraining first. Give the employee a chance to turn it around.

2) Know the laws your state. Understand what type of documentation you may need. Have their employee file handy and be ready to give reasons for the firing. Consult an attorney if the firing involves an offense such as fighting or sexual harassment. These incidents may end up as a lawsuit.

3) Perform the termination as soon as you have made the decision to do so. Waiting too long after the decision has been made may cause your business further damage, upset your clientele or demoralize the remaining employees. Worse yet, the soon-to-be-fired employee could get wind of the firing, which would cause a very uncomfortable situation. 

4) Don’t argue. The terminated employee might become emotional. Remain calm. Know that you are doing this for the better of your company. It’s nothing personal. Have the supporting documentation ready just in case the employee asks for the reasons behind the dismissal. 

5) Have the separation paperwork ready to go. Gather together any applicable COBRA, severance or other exit documents. It might also be a good idea to have the employee’s last check available. Don’t forget to ask for the return of any company assets such as keys, mobile devices, documents and passwords. 

Firing an employee is never easy, but it’s sometimes necessary in order to grow your business. Be firm but fair. Hopefully, if you’ve hired right, trained right, and motivated right, you’ll avoid having to do it often.



 Donald R. Simon, J.D./LL.M., is president and CEO of Simon Business Consulting, Inc., a firm providing consulting services such as business and marketing plan development, incorporations, intellectual property advising, franchising regulatory assistance, and presentations on the basics of starting a small business.  Send questions or comments to  This blog is provided as a source of information and is not to be construed as legal advice or opinion, or to form an attorney-client relationship.  For legal advice, please consult an attorney.