How to Fire an Underperforming Employee

These days, corporate layoffs are common. In tough economic times, companies cut jobs. It’s not an employee’s fault. Other positions may be available. Things will get better. They can reapply in future. And, at the very least, they know it’s not their fault for quitting. They have a good reference.

But when the work performance is criminal, and termination is Employee fault, no second chance. All you can do is done Help improve underperforming employees. There may be no offer to return. Instead of having this conversation, some managers prefer to avoid it altogether. Firing an employee is difficult. But it doesn’t have to be impossible.

Underperforming employees have a big impact on a business. This not only costs the company money, but also time. When an employee consistently underperforms, it puts pressure on other team members as well. At some point, you will have to make the decision to part ways with an employee who is no longer a good fit due to their performance. Here are some tips for navigating the process of firing an employee.

Document everything

Some offenses are so serious that an employee must be fired immediately. Second chance should not be given in this case. Theft and crimes of violence are some of these crimes.

But poor job performance can sometimes be corrected through documentation and coaching. An employee should not be blindsided if they are told that performance is grounds for termination. Before an employer can fire an employee for poor performance, they must take reasonable steps to help the employee improve.

Counseling and coaching an employee can often produce better performance. And, you should document your efforts. There should be a paper trail alerting the employee to what went wrong and how to change it. Employees should have been told there was a problem. They should have been forewarned that their performance was a problem and given clear expectations for the future over time to meet those expectations.

Whether it’s a problem with their attitude, their skills, or they’re just not a good fit for the job, document your conversations with the employee. Document if it seems like a sudden problem or if it’s been a bad fit from day one. Document any plans discussed with the employee to improve their performance, or if the employee shows no desire to improve the situation.

Make sure you protect yourself legally

According to US Chamber of Commerce, you should hire an HR professional when your business grows to 10 employees. This is especially true when you think you need to fire an employee. It is important to protect yourself legally from the threat of a lawsuit from a disgruntled former employee.

One way to protect yourself is to create very clear policies for employees to sign. It includes an employee handbook. Let’s say you’re considering firing an employee for their poor attendance. But, do you have a written attendance policy for employees?

Protect yourself by making sure employees know your expectations. Put these expectations in writing. This will protect you when you fire an employee. Consult a lawyer or legal professional to find out what you need to do to protect yourself and your business legally.

Create a checklist

Before dismissing an employee, it is important to think about what items he has to surrender. You also have to consider the things they don’t have, but have access to Make a checklist and include things like:

  • the badge
  • Computer/Laptop
  • Email access
  • the key
  • password
  • the phone
  • uniform

You should also create a plan for the employee’s exit after the meeting. If the employee has access to the computer system or email, you may want to turn it off during the meeting. You’ll also want to plan how employees can collect any personal items to exit the building.

Schedule of meetings

If possible, try to schedule the meeting in a location where many people won’t hear what’s going on. This can be ideal if you have a conference room. The goal is to allow employees to hear the news without their colleagues hearing it.

Decide in advance what you will say. Don’t let yourself be swayed by persuasion or emotional outbursts. Stay “on script” so to speak.

Consult with your HR professional to ensure you are providing legally required information, such as a COBRA notice or a termination letter.

Make your meeting short and to the point. Tell the employee that the reason you are here is because they are being fired. State the reason for termination. Provide any resources your company may choose to provide, such as termination letters. Give them a phone number they can call if they have any questions.

Another leader is present

If you have an HR member on staff, they should be present at the meeting. If not, you should have another team member – such as a manager or business partner – attend the meeting. Having another leader present can help you stay focused. This person can also act as a witness if the employee is hostile towards you.

Avoid getting personal

During the meeting, you want to be direct and concise. Avoid making statements like “I’m sorry” or anything else that involves a personal level. You are ending the employment relationship.

It is important not to get emotional or divert attention from the event. Focus on the script you’ve created and the message you’re delivering.

Employees may have questions about benefits, severance pay, or other issues. Answer these questions, or consult someone who can. Be professional regardless of your own feelings.


Firing an employee is never a pleasant experience. This shouldn’t come as a total shock to any employee. An employee should not be terminated until he has had an opportunity to improve job performance. Planning the conversation will help you deliver the message in a professional manner. This will provide smooth transition opportunity for the employee.

Erin Shelby on Twitter
Erin Shelby

Team Writer: Erin Shelby is a writer and blogger based in Ohio. Follow her on Twitter @ByErinShelby

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