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How to Let Go of an Employee

Firing employees is one of the most disliked tasks for many business owners, but unfortunately, supervisors often find themselves in this position. You may feel guilty for terminating your relationship with an employee or contractor, but it's a necessary step for building a successful company. Follow these steps from the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce to make the termination process as easy as possible for you and your employee.


Gather Documentation

You should keep all employee documentation in one location so that when you need to fire someone, you can pull incident reports that influenced your decision. You may want to upload all of your documentation to a PDF tool to make everything organized and easy to find. You can then use a tool to extract specific pages to highlight your rationale for letting this employee or contractor go; you can also use this tool to delete PDF pages to make sure all of your files stay tidy and organized. This new document should be provided to the employee and kept on record in case of a legal dispute. 


Recognize the Need for Termination

Firing employees is not fun, but it is necessary at times. You must terminate the employment of people who consistently fail to meet work-related deadlines or who produce sloppy work. You need to fire people who fail to comply with company guidelines, and you may need to let employees go if your business is struggling financially and you are not able to pay them.


You also need to recognize the need to terminate your relationship with a contractor. If the contractor is in breach of contract – fails to meet the requirements of a signed contract – you may terminate your relationship and collect payment for legal damages to your business. It is best to work with a lawyer in these situations to ensure you have strong legal grounding and are not at risk for fault.


Find a Private Space

Although other employees in the office will learn that you have fired someone soon enough, there is no reason to have the discussion in front of an audience. It is best to have a termination discussion in a private space such as an office. Having the conversation in private gives your employee room to express their feelings and makes them more comfortable asking any questions they have about your decision.


One study found that 40% of American workers have been fired from at least one position. Knowing that you will likely need to terminate employment one day because of this statistic, you need to understand the importance of preserving your company's reputation. Firing people in private helps accomplish this goal.


Have a Conversation

You should be clear and concise when you are informing an employee of your decision to terminate. Use kind, empathic language to show that you care about how the worker feels. You should also list specific examples behind your decision to let your employee go. If the decision is made solely because you must downsize the company, let the employee know that he or she is not at fault. However, make sure you show documentation on errors the employee has made if they were the ultimate reason for your decision to fire the worker.


Tie Up Loose Ends

Once your former employee no longer works for you, it's important to tie up loose ends to protect your business and allow him or her to start looking for a new job immediately. Take back any keys so that the former worker can no longer access your office or company building. File termination paperwork immediately. You should also explain your termination decision to the remaining employees to avoid unnecessary gossip and restore a positive company culture.


Use Tact, but Gather Evidence

Making the decision to let go of an employee or contractor is not easy, but it is important if you want your company to grow. If there is fault involved – for instance, breach of contract versus downsizing – then document your reasons to ensure you have good records for both the employee and any potential legal action. Be clear in your communication but empathetic in your language to minimize complications with the difficult task of letting someone go.


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