5 Steps to Follow for Empathetic Employee Terminations

9 September 2022
Recruitment Obstacles


"Too often, employee terminations can be messy. This is because organizations tend to be reactive — either they haven't dealt with something for a long time, and it got to a breaking point. Or because they have a leader who tends to be less empathetic and more brain-centred and logical who'd say, 'Well, we've got to fire people,' and loses sight of the fact there are humans involved," says HR expert Greg Smith.

In an interview with HDR for their upcoming Employment Law Masterclass, Smith says that "no matter what the situation, managers should bring empathy, context and clarity to the conversation."

In order to do so and to undergo this process in the most humane and professional way possible, these are 5 steps you should take into consideration, according to Mike Kappel.


  1. Be Clear With The Employee

    If you must fire an employee, do so gracefully. When you meet with an employee to tell them they are being fired, you need to tell them as soon as the meeting starts. If you were getting fired, you wouldn't want to talk about the weather or last night's football game before hearing the news. Answer any questions about the employee's last paycheck, collecting unemployment benefits and health insurance.

  2. Don't Humiliate The Employee

    Employment termination isn't just bad for that individual— it's also bad for the other employees. Other employees could have relationships with the fired employee. So, consider firing the employee after your other employees leave, so the terminated employee does not need to leave your office in front of their co-workers. Also, it might be a good idea to have someone else in the room (maybe someone from HR) as a witness.

  3. Make Sure Your Actions Are Legal

    If your employee has a contract with your business, you cannot fire them for reasons not listed in the contract. This should state the reasons you can end a worker's employment at your company. You might want to consult a lawyer before you fire an employee.

  4. Leave The Element Of Surprise Out

    Before you fire an employee, give them a warning that they are not performing well. If you are firing an employee because of a serious policy violation, that's a different story. But if their performance is poor, do a performance review before firing them to give the employee every possible chance to improve first, and reserve firing as your option of last resort.

  5. Tell Your Employees

    In some situations, telling employees that you let one of their co-workers go is necessary. For example, you might want to point out that there will be changes in workload or new opportunities available. But, don't go into detail and become the center of a gossip-fest. Remain professional throughout the process of firing an employee: before, during, and after.


What's the best advice you can share with fellow HR professionals for employee terminations? Let us know in the comments section below.  

Have more to say? Start a conversation in our forum to share your thoughts with other professionals in this community.  


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