The right way to fire an employee

Five steps to ace that job interview
Five steps to ace that job interview

There's nothing fun about the firing process: whether you're giving or getting the news.

"No one likes to fire people, it doesn't matter how successful or high up they are," said Kristi Hedges, leadership coach and author of The Power of Presence.

But having to let workers go comes with the territory of being an employer.

And while there are a host of legal issues surrounding how to properly lay off a worker, experts said there are also practical and emotional considerations to take into account when delivering the news.

Don't surprise them

If a worker is being fired for poor performance, it shouldn't be a surprise.

Hold regular employee reviews to go over any areas that need improvement, experts recommended. They don't need to be super formal, but it allows workers time to improve or refocus.

Some states have what's called at-will employment, which means workers can be fired at any time for any legal reason, but that doesn't make it a good business practice.

"Legally you may be able to do that, but in many cases, firing an employee without having any reason — especially if it is for performance with no feedback or no indication of doing something — that is not a good way to operate a business," said Dan Ryan, founder of Ryan Search & Consulting.

If the termination is due to a business model change, try to give affected workers as much notice as possible.

"Sometimes business necessities don't allow [for a heads up] or for safety reasons you may not want to, each case is different," said Paula Harvey, vice president of human resources at Schulte Building Systems in Texas. "Make a good decision on how to handle the terminations."

Do it face to (familiar) face

Firing someone is always going to be uncomfortable. But it needs to happen in person, the experts agreed. Not over the phone, via email or blasted out on Twitter.

"We pick up a lot more information when someone is in front of us," said Hedges. "You can see body language, feel the energy in the room and react better. It's a sign of courtesy to let someone go face to face.

She added that it's best to have the direct manager be the one delivering the news. "If management is having a talk with you, that is a level of intimacy and personal care," she said. "If you are kicked over to HR to someone you don't interact with, that sets a different tone."

Experts also recommended having another person in the room, preferably from human resources, that can serve both as a witness or to help with any unusual reactions or questions.

Be clear and concise

Now's not the time to wing it. What you say and how you break the news is important when letting an employee go.

Make sure you know exactly why you're firing a worker, have specific examples and bring the proper documentation. That includes copies of performance reports, any write-ups and applicable financial forms like unemployment insurance and health insurance and 401(k) options.

Be firm and clear in the delivery of the termination and the path forward. "There is no room or need to get into a protracted discussion," said Ryan. "It is what it is, there is no productive discussion that can take place after."

Be prepared for emotion, but keep yours in check

Some workers take the news in stride. Others might go through a range of emotions: shock, grief and sometimes anger.

"Show empathy," said Ryan, but be careful about any physical contact.

Harvey advised against using any harsh words or mean emotions during the termination. "You may be upset that they didn't perform at the point you hoped, but it doesn't do you any good. Just say, 'This is it, we made this decision and we wish you well on your way.'"

Give them a soft landing

For workers who are being let go for non-performance issues, help make the transition as seamless as possible, Hedges recommended.

She said some companies offer employees a long lead time to give them a chance to find a new job, or offer some consulting work for the company to help make the transition as smooth as possible.

Be honest with employees

If there is a big round of layoffs, don't leave employees in the dark. And if word starts spreading about people losing their jobs, move swiftly.

"That kind of rumor mill can be detrimental to those involved, especially if your name is being circulated as on the chopping block,' said Ryan.

Try to make the cuts all at once, Hedges advised.

"Go deep the first time. It's better to let more people go at once then to do it over three stages. It prolongs the pain. The worst thing a manger can do when answering whether more layoffs are coming is to say, 'I don't know, we will have to see.'"

Once the cuts have been made, be transparent and offer a sense of security to remaining workers.

"If the rest of company doesn't know what's going on and the only way to retrieve information is back channel rumors, that crates havoc," said Hedges.

Social Surge - What's Trending

Personal Finance

CNNMoney Sponsors