Firing Your First Employee? 13 Tips to Do It the Right Way

firing your first employee

Firing an employee for the first time in your career can be a difficult and emotional process. But whether an employee’s performance has been consistently subpar or a difficult downsizing decision has been made, sometimes it has to be done. To help you do it in the most effective, kindest way possible, a panel of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) members weighed in on the following question:

“What’s one best practice you’d recommend for a business leader dealing with their first employee fire, and why?”

Here’s how they recommend you approach your first fire.

1. Make the Decision and Stick to it

“The most important thing is for the person making the decision to be set in their way and not sway on the decision of the firing. Getting rid of someone at a job is not easy, and they are likely going to beg and plead to keep their position. Should the CEO or business leader change their mind, this will ultimately show weakness and make future hirings and firings even harder.” ~ Zac Johnson, Blogger

2. Have Everything on Record

“Always have a second person in the room and document everything. Document the lead-up to the firing. Document the actual event itself. Be kind, be professional and be matter-of-fact. Don’t get personal with the firing and try to understand that, most likely, the person you’re firing did not see this coming.” ~ Peter Boyd, PaperStreet Web Design

3. Acknowledge Their Value and Contributions

“Before going into the room, think of the value that the employee brought to your company and lead with it. Even when you let someone go, it is important to make sure they know they made a positive impact so they feel empowered to continue their journey. This person can turn into a customer, partner or important referral in the future. A simple acknowledgment of their impact can go a long way.” ~ Daria Gonzalez, Wunderdogs

4. Follow Correct Procedures

“Organize a paper trail and evidence of why you need to dismiss an employee. Whether you have to downsize or deal with a problem, you need a reason, and being upfront with the employee matters. Some states have at-will employment, and others don’t. You also have to follow your company rules regarding the grounds for termination. For all of these policies, you need documentation to avoid liability.” ~ Duran Inci, Optimum7

5. Stay Calm and Be Empathetic

“Do not burn bridges. No matter what that employee did, be gracious and respectful. Firing someone is quite nerve-wracking, and it can be easy to get angry or stressed. Try to see the full picture and treat the employee as you would like to be treated in this difficult situation.” ~ Morissa Schwartz, Dr. Rissy’s Writing & Marketing

6. Lead With a Kind Approach

“Keep kindness in mind. A firing is likely to be a pivotal, memorable moment in a person’s life. Even if the person has damaged your business or acted inappropriately, a kind approach will be remembered. It’s important to understand we’re all human, so remember the person across from you is a human who still deserves r espect and dignity.” ~ Beck Bamberger, BAM Communications

7. Have a Replacement Plan in Mind

“If you are firing someone for the first time, you should make sure you have someone to take over the job duties. Also, make sure you have done a knowledge transfer so that your existing work is not affected. Make sure you have a list of passwords and change them when you fire someone. It is also safer to give them two weeks’ notice. If you can’t give them notice, then give them two weeks of extra salary.” ~ Piyush Jain, Simpalm

8. Express the Cumulative Nature of the Firing

“Firing an employee should be an action taken based on the accumulated unprofessional performance of an individual. If someone is repeatedly performing poorly, keep well-organized documentation. These documents should go into detail on each incident that occurs, how you handled the shortcomings, what the warnings were and how it impacted their performance moving forward (or the lack of impact).” ~ Blair Thomas, eMerchantBroker

9. Be Timely

“Often, new entrepreneurs wait for too long when it comes to firing people who are not the right fit. However, the longer you keep them on the team, the more it costs your business. If you feel that it’s time to let someone go, do it as fast as possible.” ~ Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

10. Use Concise, Fact-Based Logic

“Keeping your explanation concise and factual with why you are going to terminate them will be the best way forward. If you’re indirect, you could mislead the person, which can have big ramifications.” ~ Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC

11. Practice Your Speech Beforehand

“It’s not a good feeling when you have to fire someone, but sometimes it’s necessary. When you eventually find yourself in this position, I suggest practicing your speech with the member of management who will be present during the termination. Use this time to fine-tune your verbiage and offer as much information as possible so the employee will understand why you made this decision.” ~ Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights

12. Avoid Filling the Meeting With ‘Fluff’

“When you have to fire your first employee, don’t fill the meeting with fluff. If you walk in with a  bubbly personality and a big smile, then switch to a “serious” tone as you’re letting them go, this could ruin any rapport you had with that employee, which can have a wide range of negative consequences.” ~ John Turner, SeedProd LLC

13. Try Not to Let Emotion Overwhelm Your Decision

“Don’t let your emotions get in the way of the right thing to do. If you’re certain that termination is the only option, you have to be firm with your decision. This doesn’t mean you have to be cold when firing the employee; just remember that it’s not the end of the world, and try to soften the blow, if possible.” ~ Bryce Welker,

Image: Depositphotos

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The Young Entrepreneur Council The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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