Home Management How to Properly Fire
an Underachieving Employee
How to Properly Fire an Underachieving Employee

How to Properly Fire
an Underachieving Employee


Sticking a neon yellow Post-It note to the middle of your employee’s computer screen that says “You’re Fired!” in your own handwriting, and then hoping they leave- no questions asked- might seem like the easiest way to fire an employee. However, to save you the hundreds and maybe thousands of dollars in lawsuits, and from the pain of revenge, stick to our How-To!

There are a few things which are as scary as root canals, public speaking, and eating at grandma’s. Firing people seems to be on that list of scary things. It’s not only employees that are upset about pink slips, employers have a hard time too!

For whatever reason you have to let go of an employee who doesn’t meet your expectations, know that the process can be painless for the both of you. Here, you’ll find how to fire an employee without the side effects. Learn how to save face, avoid embarrassment, and keep your integrity in check even as you lay off an employee.

What to know BEFORE firing an employee

Before deciding you want to let go of an employee who has not been meeting expectations, make sure you have explicitly let them know that you were unhappy with their performance. It is unsettling when you find out, as an employee, that you are being fired for “poor performance” when you have been receiving encouragement from your boss all along.

K-I-S-S: Keep It Simple, Silly

If you want to kiss an employee good-bye, that’s fine by us. But what we want to tell you is, keep everything (related to firing) as simple as possible. Firing an employee? Fine, but make sure you do it as promptly and as simply as possible.

When you’ve made a decision to fire someone, ensure you’ve been letting them know. That way, when you meet, all you have to say is “Hey Bob, I’m sorry, but we have to let you go.” If you’ve (hopefully) been insinuating or directly mentioning their underperformance up to this point, you don’t have to explain WHY you’re letting them go. They will understand why, and won’t argue.

Arrange to have a meeting

It is always ethical to ensure a face to face conversation in all aspects of business life. This applies to firing an employee, as well. Although we live in an e-world, it is easier to address grievances when someone is in front of you. Most essentials of communication- body language, tone, gestures, and eye contact- are lost when you send an impersonal e-mail out, or make a phone call that is devoid of visual communication.

Be prepared to deal with a range of emotions from your employee. Understand where they’re coming from, and their fears (losing a job, unsure of their future, coming to terms with their new situation). Try to be professional, and have tact and wit by your side. You don’t your employee to leave on a sour note, even though you are severing work ties with them. It’s better to err on the side of caution and ensure no grounds are available for lawsuits- bullying, abuse, discrimination and the like.

During this meeting, it is a good idea to go over termination dates, and what the employee will expect. If you have an interim period between the termination of service and the actual last day of working, let your employee know. Keep all documents pertinent to termination of services at hand. If there is a severance pay or similar, make sure you have that near you, too.

Also, please try to keep this meeting as short as possible. The longer it gets, the more chances of someone getting upset and anger flying around the place. It is also a great idea to have someone from HR present. Not only will they be able to understand human psyches, but will act as witnesses as well.

Here’s how a possible meeting might pan out:

  1. Meeting on company property, but somewhere where it will be the two of you and possibly one person from HR
  2. Greet the employee, and get straight to the point. (Small talk is great, but will catch your employee off-guard)
  3. If you have been stating dissatisfaction with performance up to this point, a simple “I’m sorry but we have to terminate your contract” or “I’m sorry but we have to let go of you” will be understood
  4. Make sure you use the terms “firing” or “termination” to avoid ambiguity of the situation

Returning company assets

Like most companies, yours would have given your employee access to files, company property and other items. Ask for the employee to return tangible items, and revoke access to electronic data.

Bid adieu gracefully

So you’re firing an employee, but you can do it in style. Who knows, you might even be able to stay in your employees good books by trying out these ideas:

  • Make a personal statement alongside your official letter of termination. Include something to the lines of “we wish you all the best in your future endeavors” or something to that effect. It’s better to play it safe and be courteous, and even kind, in situations like these.
  • Shake hands. At this point, that’s probably the last thing you want to do, but try to be affable. The first impression, and definitely the last impression you leave behind with a person are the ones they will remember forever.
  • If you can, arrange for career counseling.

Hiring an employee is easy. Firing a lazy slob isn’t easy.


About the Author

This article was provided by LegalEase Solutions.  LegalEase is a specialized legal research and writing company serving attorneys, law firms and legal departments across the US and beyond since 2004. For more information, please feel free to contact us at 1(877) 712-8003 or email us.

Full disclosure, Legal Ink Magazine is an affiliate partner with LegalEase Solutions.


Priyanka Menon
Priyanka Menon


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