How To Let An Employee Go: 5 Steps

November 15, 2016
November 15, 2016 TruPath

How To Let An Employee Go: 5 Steps

Having to let an employee go is never a lighthearted situation. However, if you know exactly how to let an employee go, it can be executed with grace and with respect to the dignity of your employees.

Take a look at this list of steps for how to let an employee go gracefully.

How To Let An Employee Go In Five Steps

Prepare for it well beforehand.

The last thing you’ll want to do is show up unprepared for the firing, and “winging it” on the spot. Attend the “firing meeting” ready to cover the practical logistical questions that the employee will have about leaving this role. When is the official end date? Can I take advantage of any career counseling here? Will there be severance pay? Are there other job opportunities elsewhere within the company? What will happen with benefits? You might need assistance from the HR department to ensure that these questions have answers.

Give the employee the chance to improve (or resign) first.

Particularly for small businesses, it’s a tough realization that the candidate isn’t a great fit in his or her current position. Even though it might seem easier to simply hold out hope that things improve, you really just have to bite the bullet and take control of the situation. The best move to make is have a conversation with this employee, and express your personal concerns. Give him or her the opportunity to realize maybe this wasn’t a good match and open the door for resignation. Sometimes, the employee might quit on his or her own after this sort of chat.

Clearly explain the employee’s performance issue, using specific examples and dates to back it up. Next, plot out the blueprints for improvement, with delineated “next steps” as well as milestones this employee should achieve.

Finally, you must warn the employee that consequences lie ahead if things fail to improve. Outline the consequences that might take place and follow through with them, should this employee’s efforts stay stagnant.

Listen more than you react in the meeting.

Be prepared to listen without reacting in the meeting. This is one of the biggest steps in learning how to let an employee go; losing a job can be traumatic, and you might find yourself on the receiving end of many emotions. Listen with respect, and then share with the employee the practical realities of moving forward. Offer to talk again later when emotions have settled, or request that a trained HR counselor help you out.

The aftermath: Take care of the rest of your team.

Some employees might be rattled when the word gets out that your long-term employee was let go. Thus, you must refocus your energy on how to motivate the rest of your employees. Cover the burning questions: How will work be reassigned? What will you do to support them through this rough transition?

Chat with your team about the firing process and perhaps your reasoning (with respect to confidentiality agreements). Ultimately as their employer, you must be sensitive to their emotions, and also help reposition their focus back on work.

Avoid surprises.

When learning how to let an employee go, one major step is to ensure the employee can see the train coming before it arrives. Of course, if your team ever fails to meet your expectations, you have to let them know right away—not months later. (This can be seen as passive aggressive and paint you as holding a grudge.)

Also, discuss how setbacks negatively impact the organization, the team, and the employee’s own personal success goals. This way, it seems less like a personal attack and more like you supporting the employee’s professional career and development. Often, this will fix the problem before you need to dive any deeper (like letting someone go).

Many employers and managers hesitate to hold these regular performance meetings, lest they be pinned as a micro-manager. However, when you engage in frequent dialogue, you foster a workplace of respect and trust. Thus, conversations regarding employee shortcomings can also boost learning and growth. Regular performance checks make a firing situation much less awkward.

Do you have further questions about how to let an employee go? Let us know!

For all your hiring needs, contact the professionals at TruPath to find the right fit for your team.


As a trusted recruitment source for more than a decade, TruPath has the industry knowledge and a proven model to help our partners feel comfortable in their search for a candidate.

Through our TruProcess, we are able to consistently deliver exceptional candidates that help organizations continue down successful paths. Contact TruPath today to tell us about your staffing needs.