Is there a good way to fire someone?

Bill told me that he’ll do ANYTHING to keep his track record as a nice guy and NEVER fire anyone.

(The problem: All of your good employees are watching someone get away with murder and you not doing anything about it.)


Annette explained that ALL of her employees are idiots and she likes to hire slow and fire FAST.

(The problem: Employees don’t get a chance for correction or the time to consider their commitment to their performance.)


Cindy said, “I get so emotional when things aren’t going well, so I avoid difficult conversations about people’s performance.”

(The problem: High emotions exacerbate the good and the bad of any performance situation.)

Rather than doing nothing, firing too fast or avoiding conversations, create a good termination where both parties agree that separation is a good idea.


So, what should you do when a situation turns bad?

  • Have a system.
  • Have a method for managing the conversation.
  • Let your employee decide what their commitment to change may be.

1.) Have a system

This is not meant to be legal advice. However, a system in an employee handbook that everyone knows about what to expect if there are problems, is critical. For example, you could have a three-strike rule. Just make sure that you outline how someone knows they have a “strike” and that there is a paper trail.

Another example might be to be sure you outline what you consider an immediate “firing offense.” Could it be stealing, being intoxicated, or bullying another worker? You decide but make sure you put it in writing to be sure that you are not opening yourself to any unlawful termination actions.

And of course, when in doubt, consult an SBDC consultant or an attorney.

2.) Have a method

After you have exhausted your non-job-threatening attempts at performance management and you are willing to separate, have a method to keep the decision and discussion clear and non-emotional. Here is an example of the very best “firing” conversation I’ve ever seen.

The Performance Conversation

State specifically and directly what you see happening.

State the specific consequences of what you see happening.

Listen to their side and point of view.

Acknowledge them and DON’T ARGUE.

Repeat as needed:

    • State specifically and directly what you see happening.
    • State the consequences of what you see happening.
    • Ask for a commitment to improving their behavior. Be specific, time-bound, set measurable results, and write them down.
    • Review your expectations and offer information, training, and resources.
    • Let them know that you appreciate their efforts.
    • Set up a time to review progress and follow through.
    • Get a signed document for your records

Remember: It is your employee’s commitment to improvement. Not yours. Don’t badger, lecture, or plead. Don’t offer to do it for them or assume that they are committed because you asked. They must articulate their commitment.

Your employee’s commitment to improvement is the key to making change. Often employees will not be committed to any change.

That is when you are able to agree that separation is necessary. Such an agreement is a good termination.

If you want help developing an employee evaluation, an employee handbook, creating any systems in your business, or need referrals to local attorneys, a consultant with Idaho SBDC in your region is available to help. Click here to set up an appointment.

Ruth Schwartz joined the Idaho SBDC in March of 2020, She has been a life-long entrepreneur and business owner. She spent 25 years in the music industry: radio, publishing, producing, retail.

Ruth Schwartz

Most notably, Ruth started, built and sold a $10 million, wholesale, music, distribution company. She has owned and operated a leadership training and coaching company, a debt collection company and an Amazon store.

Ruth is a Professionally Certified Business Leadership Coach (PCC) through the International Coaching Federation and is the author of the book, The Key to the Golden Handcuffs: Stop Being a Slave to Your Business. She is certified in over four assessment sciences and the creator of the Fail Proof Hiring Program. She is a Distinguished Toastmaster and a member of the National Speakers’ Association.

Hailing from the Sierra Foothills in Northern California, Ruth taught at the Sierra Commons Business Incubator and became a consultant with the California SBDC before her move to Idaho in 2017.

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