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Phoenix Forward

5 ways to fire an employee respectfully

How to fire an employee

Axing an employee is a boss’ most unpleasant responsibility, but there are ways to lessen the pain, according to Anthony Di Gaetano, an instructor in the MBA program at the University of Phoenix Sacramento Valley Campus. Here, his five tips on how to let an employee go with respect and dignity:

1. Don’t announce layoffs in an email.

Technology has made firing too impersonal, and while it’s extremely easy to announce a layoff or notify specific employees of their termination via email, it’s not the right method, observes Di Gaetano, a former UPS executive.

“The nonhuman element really comes out when this is done. You owe it to the employees — even if it’s a mass layoff — to notify them face to face and one-on-one,” he says, adding that emails cause embarrassment. They can also include errors, he explains, citing a well-known email snafu in which Aviva Investors, a financial firm, accidentally laid off everyone on its staff.

2. Keep terminations private.

Keep the targeted employee’s impending termination close-vested to avoid that person finding out through the rumor mill, Di Gaetano advises. Bosses ought to wait to tell or share any related memos with the employee’s immediate supervisor until the day of the layoff announcement. “Only those who are directly involved in the termination should be directly involved,” he explains.

3. Offer an explanation.

Be clear, short, direct and firm when delivering the actual message. “This is not a case where you are going to chat with the employee about the weekend or family and then deliver the crushing news,” Di Gaetano says. “This is not the most pleasant situation, but you don’t want to overcompensate by coming across too friendly or too harsh. Put yourself in the employee’s shoes: Would you want this dragged out?”

4. Plan ahead for emotional fallout.

No boss should ever break down along with a crying employee to express empathy, but offering a box of tissues is appropriate, according to Di Gaetano.

“Be prepared in the sense that crying or even anger may happen, depending on the employee, and you may have to offer some type of remedy to comfort or calm them or at least let them know you understand this is a hardship,” he says. Di Gaetano also recommends offering a handout that outlines the process, including exit interviews, heath care options, the last date of pay and any available job or resumé sites that could help lead to future employment.

5. Avoid the walk of shame.

Sometimes an escort out of the building is necessary based on the nature of the termination, Di Gaetano says. However, he suggests that bosses avoid parading fired employees past gawking co-workers whenever possible, and certainly in cases of no-fault layoffs. “Allow the employee to walk out on his or her own accord,” he says, “so they can still feel like a valued professional.”

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