A step-by-step guide to firing an employee

When you’ve made the decision to fire an employee, it’s important to do it in a way that is respectful and considerate of their feelings. Here is a step-by-step guide to firing someone.

Two colleagues sitting next to each other, looking and pointing at a laptop screen

Reasons to fire an employee

Before you fire an employee, you should have a good reason for doing so. Some common reasons to fire an employee include:

1. Poor job performance

If an employee is not doing their job properly, your team and organization will struggle to function optimally.

2. Inappropriate behaviour

If an employee is behaving inappropriately, whether it's toward other employees or customers, they need to be corrected. If the correction doesn't work, firing may be the only option.

3. Attendance issues

If an employee is frequently absent or late, it's a sign that they're not committed to their job.

4. Not meeting expectations

If an employee is not meeting the expectations you have for them and you don't see options to improve the situation, it may be time to part ways.

5. Disrespectful or disruptive behaviour

If an employee is being disrespectful or disruptive, it's a sign that they're not a good fit for the company. Your team should be able to perform to their best standards without commotion and disruption.

6. Theft or other criminal activity

If an employee is committing theft or any other type of criminal activity, they need to be immediately fired. You need to set an example to other employees that this type of behaviour is not tolerated.

7. Lying

If an employee is caught lying, it's a sign of trust issues and they may not be trustworthy. Depending on the situation, it might be possible to give the employee a second chance. However, if the lying is serious or repeated, it's better to let them go.

8. Violating company policy

If an employee is violating company policy, it's a sign that they're not following the rules.

9. Company downsizing

If your company is downsizing, you may need to reduce your workforce. In this case, you should follow your company's procedures for layoffs.

In some cases, it might be helpful to offer extra training to your employee or give an official warning. However, if the situation doesn't improve, you may have to follow through with firing them.


The decision-making process can be difficult, but it's important to make sure you're taking the time to consider all your options.

1. Determine if there's a possibility for improvement

After you've discussed the situation with the employee, you should have a good idea of whether or not there's a possibility for improvement. If you don't see any options to improve the situation, it may be time to part ways.

2. Don't act without warning

When you see opportunities for improvement, the employee should be made aware of the expectations and given a chance to improve their performance. You can do this in a regular performance review or plan a meeting to discuss the current situation. If the employee is not meeting the expectations, consider giving them a formal warning.

3. Consult the team

It's important to discuss the performance of the employee with your team and other managers. They may have new insights to help you make a better decision.

4. Consider your company culture

Keeping a badly performing colleague in the team can be highly demotivating for the other team members. It should be clear that the team and you strive for excellence and that poor performance or behaviour will not be tolerated.

5. Consider a demotion or transfer

Internal mobilisation be a good option if the employee is otherwise good at their job, but there are specific issues that need to be addressed. For example, if an employee is not meeting sales targets, but they're still the best salesperson on the team, a demotion or transfer to another department may be a good solution.


Once you've made the decision to fire someone, it's important to follow the company procedures and have a plan to handle the aftermath of letting the employee go.

1. Follow the procedures

Talk to your human resources department or legal counsel to make sure you are following the proper procedures for firing someone. In some cases, you might need to consider things like severance pay, notice periods, or vacation pay.

2. Have a plan for the termination meeting

You should have a plan for how you're going to handle the termination meeting. This includes who will be present, what you're going to say, and how you're going to handle the employee's belongings.

3. Envision the new planning and workload distribution

Before you fire an employee, you should have a plan in place for what will happen next. This includes who will take over their duties, how their departure will be handled, and what will happen to their belongings. If you need to put out a new vacancy, now is the time to start planning for that as well.

4. Create or check-up on your backup plan

In some cases, employees may not take the news of their firing well. It's important to have a backup plan in place in case they become disruptive.

Informing the employee

When you're ready to inform the employee, it's important to be clear, concise, and professional.

1. Choose the right time and place

It's important to choose a time and place that is private and where the employee will feel comfortable.

2. Be clear and concise

When you're informing the employee of their firing, it's important to be clear and concise. You should avoid giving them false hope or making promises you can't keep.

3. Be respectful

Even though you're ending the employment relationship, it's important to be respectful. Avoid being confrontational or making personal attacks. Be prepared to answer any questions they may have.

4. Have a witness present

It's often a good idea to have a witness present when you're informing the employee of their firing. This can help to avoid any misunderstanding about what was said.

5. Be prepared for their reaction

When you tell an employee they're being fired, they will likely have a strong emotional reaction. They may be angry, upset, or even heartbroken. It's important to be prepared for this and to remain calm throughout the process.

6. Put it in writing

In some cases, it may be a good idea to put the decision in writing. This can help to avoid any confusion about the terms of their firing.

7. Follow up with your team

After you've fired an employee, it's important to follow up with your team. This includes letting them know about the situation and what will happen next. It's also a good idea to check in with them to see how they're doing and to answer any questions they may have.

8. Start the offboarding process

Once you've informed the employee of their firing, you'll need to start the offboarding process. This includes collecting their belongings, returning company property and cancelling any benefits they may have.

Things to take-away

  • Firing an employee is never an easy decision, but sometimes it's necessary.
  • If you find yourself in this situation, it's important to follow the proper procedures and have a plan in place. Be clear and concise when informing the employee of their firing, and be prepared for their reaction.
  • Finally, follow up with your team and start the offboarding process.

About me

Hi, I’m Lilian. I’m currently the head of a design team in a digital agency in Amsterdam and love to write about leadership and share tips based on my experience over the past couple of years.

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