How to Let Someone Go

How to Let Someone Go

Terminated, canned, fired, laid off, let go… as much as we’d all like to believe a simple solution exists, there’s no such thing as an easy way to fire someone. And no matter what anyone says or what you read, no one is an expert at firing people, either. There are no awards for firing people, it’s not tallied, and there are no metrics to soften the experience. It simply just comes as part of the workplace.

If you’re a new manager and haven’t yet performed an employee termination, overwhelming feelings can arise, but know that you’re not alone. Even the most experienced and senior managers put letting go of an employee atop the tasks that still bring on apprehension and self-doubt. As a manager, you (hopefully), won’t encounter many times needed for firing someone, but that means your ‘firing skills’ aren’t regularly built upon and that can add to the anxieties when it does come about.

Learning how to let someone go comes down to your own efforts as a person in charge in ensuring it’s done correctly. In this article, Style Nine to Five recounts ways managers can familiarize themselves with some do’s and don’ts when it comes to pulling the trigger.

The Legal Stuff

Contrary to popular belief, employers can’t simply fire employees on a whim. (No, you can’t fire someone simply because you don’t like them). The traditional ways of terminating an employee are categorized as for cause and without cause. However, these can differ depending on your province, job type and your employment contract.

Most organizations have protocols in place that outline the correlating steps managers are to take prior to initiating either of these terminations, which often require the employer/manager to have adequate documentation backing up their reasons for termination, (i.e., previous warnings, performance reviews, performance improvement plans, etc.).

Businesses try to mitigate termination processes as much as possible in order to prevent legal battles. As such, it is incredibly important that you, as a manager, are following the rules of the road when it comes to letting an employee go.

Employers often have defined codes of conduct in place so that its employees are aware of the consequences should anyone fall short or not abide. Generally, they will coincide, or be in accordance with employee/employer rights. In Canada, we have what’s called an Employment Standards Act, or ESA for short, that set out to provide legislative standards to ensure safe, fair and harmonious workplace practices for both employers and employees.

Don’t Sugar Coat It

Try as you might, empathizing or offering reasoning in the moment of letting an employee go is as good as rubbing sand in an open wound, even if the employee is someone you admire.

When performing a termination, try to be as direct and to the point as possible. If you’ve done your due diligence and have already communicated areas of concern with the employee, there should be no questions or further discussions during the meeting.

Outline the details in which you will be terminating the employee ahead of time, (or with HR if applicable). For instance, if you are letting the employee go without cause, provide their severance details verbally, but also identify that they are documented on the termination letter for the employee to review on their own.

Don’t Let it Be a Surprise

As a manager, it is important that you stay as transparent as possible throughout the course of coaching your team, as it opens up the discussion on how they should be approaching their work and gives clarification to anything that may not be clear.

You’ll often hear employees say that they knew their time was coming after being let go from their job. Most will have been met with a few times by their manager and also encountered write ups against their performance.

These actions are critical for managers as they help eliminate any reasons of uncertainty during a termination. Document any conversations and behaviours of the employee that are resulting in poor performance or causing disruptions within your team. Leading up to the termination, be sure to collect and have these on hand during the process. 

There’s No ‘Best’ Day or Time

You can read hundreds of articles and get countless advice from HR personnel on what they think the appropriate day and time to fire an employee is. The takeaway is that none of them are set in stone or provide reasonable doubt.

There are, however, many considerations that can be made that offer sound reasoning and respect for the employee. For instance:

• Plan to do the termination at the beginning or middle of the week. Doing so gives the employee the opportunity to begin job searching right away or seek legal advice if needed.

• Try to let go of the employee at the end of the workday or before the workday begins, not during lunch hour or around a team meeting. It’s best that the employee is given the opportunity to avoid other associates and can have time to pack up their things with dignity.

Don’t Outsource Your Responsibility

No one wants to be the bearer of bad news, we get that. But what’s even worse than delivering bad news is not delivering it yourself.

Avoid performing terminations over the phone or through email. Take a proactive approach at being present for the employee as it is likely that you have been the one that’s been with them since the start. This provides you with a personal stake in ensuring the termination is handled well.

‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’ rings true when it comes to the topic of letting someone go. Think of how you would want to be treated if you were in the other person’s shoes. Or perhaps you have already been the other person and know how awful it can be. Using this personal perspective can help you in ensuring a genuinely kind let down, especially since your efforts will leave a lasting impression on the remaining team members.

Style Nine to Five founder, Christie Lohr, takes pride in recruitment and staffing capabilities. She provides quality candidates with quality organizations, making the onboarding process a breeze. Employer services are offered a-la-carte, with full package and individual requests available

Meghan Kelemen – Hailing from Toronto, Meghan is a Creative Design professional with advanced experience in marketing strategies, creative improvements and project management.

Feature Image: Adobe Stock