5 Tips to Fire an Employee Gracefully

It can be the toughest of tasks for any employer but this does not mean the firing process cannot be handled with dignity

Sankar Pillai
September 11, 2019

In the 2009 movie, Up In The Air, George Clooney plays Ryan Birgham, a corporate downsizer with the unflattering job of firing employees across firms on behalf of their employers. He’s quick, he’s fast and in many cases, abrupt, but that is what his job calls for, summed up perfectly in a quote by his character.

“Some animals were meant to carry each other, to live symbiotically for a lifetime – star crossed lovers, monogamous swans. We are not those animals.” It sounds harsh and lacks flair, but the movie was released during extraordinary circumstances as the global recession was slowly squeezing corporates and forcing big ticket firms into large scale layoffs.

Be that as it may, most employers will agree that firing an employee is not the easiest of tasks and sometimes needs to be approached with kid gloves. Firing people is never fun but it can leave the people involved feel a lot better if done right.

Here are 5 tips on firing employees gracefully.

1. Be clear on why an employee is being hired, and fired

As an employer it makes sense to be clear about why you are hiring an employee and why you are firing them. So do your research when you hire a prospective worker and make sure they fit the job description. Again, when firing an employee gracefully, it is best to let the employee know early on in the meeting that they are being fired instead of beating around the bush, and more importantly, why they are being fired.

While speaking to Gulf News, Mohammad Ebrahim Al Shaiba of Al Shaiba Advocates and Legal Consultants says that according to UAE Law, an employee can be fired from a job for various reasons including not performing the basic duties under the contract of employment and persistently violating them despite verbal and written warnings.

2. Avoid humiliating the employee

Firing an employee is a very personal matter, for the firm and the employee in question. It doesn’t pay to fire an employee in front of his peers and the workforce.

A disgruntled employee is a loose cannon and nothing stops them from painting the town red about how they were discriminated against by the employer, despite the fact that they don’t have the facts to back up their claims.

And one of the best ways to soothe an employee on the firing line is to afford them the dignity and respect of a quick firing, done behind close doors. It’s quite possible that the employee might secretly even thank the firm for conducting the task with grace.

3. Offer help and support

Being frank and forthright with an employee while firing is one thing. But softening the blow by offering guidance and support helps too. From offering a recommendation letter to a generous severance package, and referring them to job sites, similar steps if taken proactively will leave the employee and the employer in a better state of mind once the process is done and dusted.

4. Clear all queries regarding pay and severance benefits

An employee being fired can be quickly replaced, so it is the employee being fired who is going to be affected most. As part of the exercise of firing an employee gracefully, it makes sense therefore to answer all queries relating to the employee’s last pay and severance benefits during the final meeting. If the employee didn’t have a clue that he is about to be fired and has not been careful with his money, the cash that he receives through his last paycheck and the severance benefits will matter a lot. It is critical therefore that they receive this money as fast as possible so there are no bad feelings.

5. Keep co-workers in the loop

In today’s connected age, word of a firing spreads like wild fire, and so do all the rumours behind the firing. It is important therefore for the firm in question to keep the employee’s co-workers informed about why they were fired. Once the facts about the firing are clear and comes from a verified source, there is very little room for rumour mongering, which could adversely affect the employee as they prepare to start a new career, and a new life.

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