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BFS Capital Blog

Firing’s Unavoidable – How to Fire an Employee with Grace

June 7, 2013

Thanks to Donald Trump’s distinctive hand gesture and the relish with which he delivers the line, “You’re fired!” has become part of our pop-culture lexicon. But those firings are just on TV; in real life, having to fire someone causes business people plenty of angst and second guessing. No one wants to do it, and certainly, no one likes doing it. But, there are things you can do to reduce the anxiety levels, not only for you but also for the person you’re terminating.
It helps to have an understanding of why you might need to fire someone. contributor Matthew Bellows throws out six good reasons for having to fire an employee. As someone who’s been fired a couple of times and now runs his own company, Yesware, Bellows describes six areas his employees are required to live up to. To fire them, there has to be concrete examples of shortfalls in at least one of the areas. These are:

    • High performance level


    • Motivation


    • Growth


    • Honesty and clarity


    • Kindness

Are these somewhat personal and subjective? Yes, probably. But Yesware’s culture and philosophy of doing business demands that employees be able to demonstrate certain qualities. Firing is better than pretending there’s a fit when there’s not, Bellows says. The sixth reason? When company financials are trending downward.

Fox Small Business takes a hands-on approach in offering concrete steps for how to fire someone responsibly and compassionately—something that will benefit both you and your employee.

    • Understand your liability. Make sure the termination doesn’t violate any employment laws or contract terms.



    • Have a termination meeting. Make it brief and direct and above all, stay calm, no matter what.


    • Close the loop afterward. Send a follow-up confirming letter. Make sure final pay, including accrued sick and/or vacation time, is calculated correctly and taken care of in a timely way.

Unfortunately, not everyone gives firing someone the consideration and forethought it deserves. says you can avoid making it harder than it has to be by not putting your foot in your mouth. Remember that even though it’s hard for you, it’s harder for the person being fired. Be respectful!

Among the 10 worst things to say when you fire someone:

    • “Look, this is hard for me.”  Really? Who cares?


    • “You just aren’t cutting it compared to Mary.” Never compare! Performance is individual.


    • “We both know you’re not happy here, so down the road you’ll be glad.”  (cringe) Not your call.


    • “I need to walk you to the door.”  This person isn’t a criminal. Don’t compound the bad feelings by making them take a walk of shame.


    • “If there’s ever anything I can do…”  What–like write a recommendation? Put in a good word? Don’t make empty promises.

You get the picture. Your feelings are pretty much irrelevant when you have to fire someone. Instead, everything needs to be about the employee and their feelings.

Sometimes there are employees you have no choice but to fire, and you probably won’t feel that bad about it.  In fact, Yahoo Small Business says there are 7 employees you should fire now. This article takes the position that some employees are just plain unmanageable. They create more problems than they’re worth and will just keep damaging your business if you keep them around.

So who are these bad-apple types?  See if you recognize any on Yahoo’s list:

    • They’re troublemakers.


    • They overpromise and underdeliver.


    • They act out with customers.


    • They can’t /won’t do the job.


    • They flake.


    • They’re entitled.


    • They ignore the rules of conduct.


Have you had to fire an employee? How did you handle it?


Image courtesy of Ambro /