There are few tasks more unpleasant than firing someone. The decision to terminate an employee is never easy, and mishandling the conversation can make a bad situation even worse. Following a few guidelines however, will help the process go more smoothly and ease the blow for your employee.

Step #1: Address problems early and give the employee a chance to improve.

Blindsiding a worker with the news that he or she is losing their job is not only unnecessarily hurtful to them, but could also get you in some legal hot water. If you notice an employee’s job performance is lacking, don’t wait to address the issue. Discuss your expectations for their work and the possible consequences if they are not met. And – document your conversation.

Step #2: Plan ahead for the termination meeting.

If you’ve come to the conclusion that you must fire an employee, come prepared for that discussion. Have an HR person or someone else on staff plan to attend the meeting with you. Bring any necessary paperwork, final paycheck, info on unemployment benefits, severance package information, etc. that you will need. Decide in advance if the employee can get their things at a later time or if you will escort them out the door with their belongings after your meeting.

Step #3: Handle the employee with care.

No matter the circumstances, treat the individual respectfully and professionally. Choose a time and place for your talk that is appropriate. Avoid a scenario in which the event could be public to others. Focus on the facts of why the employee is being let go. Although the situation may become emotional, try to remain calm, composed and on task. Realize that even if the employee may have been anticipating this outcome, it is still a very difficult experience to handle.

Step #4: Talk with your staff.

It doesn’t take long for news of someone being let go to spread quickly. Don’t let office gossip or theories of what went wrong develop. Address the issue up front with your staff. Discuss how this change may affect others on the team and how you plan to move forward.

Anyone who’s ever been on the receiving end of “I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to let you go” knows that the experience can be a traumatic one. If you’re the one delivering the news, your employee deserves for the situation to be handled in both a professional and caring manner. Doing so will not only help them move on, but you as well..

Susan Bryant is a writer and editor who enjoys working on diverse subject matter and collaborating on interesting projects. She can be contacted at