How (Not) to Terminate an Employee

10 October 2013 Privacy, Cybersecurity & Technology Law Perspectives Blog

One of the most difficult things a business owner, investor or manager will ever have to do is to terminate someone’s employment. While it is always “bad” for the employee who is getting fired, delivering the bad news can be stressful and interpersonally uncomfortable, especially if you have worked closely with the person you have to fire.  Furthermore, if the bad news is delivered poorly it could inflame an already heated situation or worse, it could lead to a discrimination lawsuit.

Here are five things you should never do when terminating an employee.

  1. Fail to take time to prepare. Walking to a termination meeting somewhat confused and unsure of what you will say is a great way to convey to the employee the sense that this is a bad decision and termination is not be justified.
  2. Deliver the termination in public or in an open office where others can hear. This will make the employee feel totally humiliated and degraded.
  3. Communicate the termination decision to the employee by email, text, or voice mail. This will convey the message that the employer cares nothing about the person or the effect the termination decision will have on their life.
  4. Soft pedal the situation or act indecisive, so as to convey the message that the decision to terminate is a trivial matter or, worse yet, you don’t really believe they should be fired. This approach is sure to create a doubt and cause the employee to contemplate challenging your decision, maybe through litigation.
  5. Fail to consider offering any severance pay in exchange for a release and waiver. Never, ever offer severance pay or something else of value to the terminated employee without getting a properly drafted and legally valid release and waiver of all claims. Giving something of value could buy good will and avoid the time and expense of litigation.


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