People Management

The 10 Commandments of Dismissal

By Andrée-Anne Blais-Auclair August 18 2021

Firing an employee can be as significant for the employer as it is for the employee who is losing their job.


Between the fear of hurting an employee’s feelings and neglecting one of the many laws that protect employees, employers have good reason to be apprehensive of dismissals.

Moreover, any dismissal inevitably has repercussions for the entire team—firing an employee is a delicate move that concerns much more than just the person dismissed.

For all these reasons, beyond the legal dimension, it’s important to give due consideration to the best way to dismiss your employee.

Is it really possible to dismiss an employee in a smooth and positive way?

We are convinced that it is. Here are our 10 commandments of dismissal.

1.Take It as Seriously as You Do Hiring

Does your organization hire with pomp and circumstance, but dismiss with a kick in the pants? This says a lot about your managers’ values.

How you go about firing an employee will have a significant impact on how the dismisses and the team perceive the manager and the company.

The way dismissals are handled is a true reflection of a company’s values.

So, put as much care into it as you do hiring. After all, being dismissed is just as significant for an employee—if not more so—than being hired. And dismisses are ambassadors of your business.

2. Focus On an Improvement Plan First

When problems arise, draw up an improvement plan.

This way, the employee will have an opportunity to improve, and you will be able to support them through this process. You can even offer to help if the situation or problem allows it. Then follow up regularly and give honest feedback going forward.

3.  Avoid Surprises

Surprises are great for birthday parties and promotions—but not dismissals.

When an employee is fired, it should never be a surprise.

Frequent and transparent performance evaluations are the key to avoiding unpleasant surprises. In these recurring evaluations, the employee and the employer must be on the same page about the employee’s performance and progress.

It is also important to take complete notes at each evaluation and have the employee sign them. This provides a reliable record of what was discussed.

4.  Prepare the Meeting Carefully

Before the meeting, prepare the required documentation. You can then give it to the employee at the very end, with as much written explanation as possible. For example, in the envelope containing the letter of dismissal, include the next steps for them to take (bring back company materials, sign a given document, etc.). By offering as much written material as possible, you will cut down on unnecessary verbal exchanges, and the meeting won’t have to drag on any longer than it needs to.

This is an optimal approach, since your employee’s attention will inevitably disperse when the dismissal is announced to them.

5.  Choose the Best Time

The best time to fire an employee is at the end of the day. This way, you keep the incident private and away from the prying eyes of coworkers.

6.  Look Each Other Squarely in the Eye

It’s clear and unequivocal that dismissals should be handled in person and in private. A coworker once told me that she was asked to show up for her yearly performance evaluation at a cafe. She was then fired. Just imagine all the emotions stirred up by being fired in public, from shame and consternation to anger.

You don’t want things to end on this note for anyone, believe me.

7.  Give Your Employee Due Consideration

In many cases, employers must provide their employees with two or more weeks’ notice. They may also offer this in the form of severance pay, without requiring their employee to come back in to work.

However, some employers do require the employee to continue working those two weeks. Not only is this counterproductive, it is also very detrimental to the employee’s dignity. And their motivation is not likely to be high when they have been labelled a “lame duck.”

If possible, don’t force your employee to continue working after being fired. Or at the very least, give them the choice, and make it a point to offer severance pay, no matter what!

8. Manage your own emotions

Remember that colleague who was fired in a cafe? At the end of the meeting, the boss confided his sadness about the circumstances, and asked if he could give her a hug.

To put it tactfully, as an employer, it’s important for you to manage your own emotions.

The person you’re firing doesn’t care about your experience when they are upset about being dismissed. Leave your state of mind and emotions out of the conversation. Your coworkers or friends will be in a better position to support and listen to you anyway.

9. Keep It Simple: Short and Sweet

Once seated face-to-face, promptly notify your employee of the reason for the meeting. Don’t shoot the breeze or beat around the bush. Also, be thoroughly prepared so that the meeting will take no more than 10 minutes. Once the dismissal is announced, you will no longer have the full attention of the employee, who will want to cope with their emotions away from the eyes of their former boss. The sequence of a dismissal meeting should roughly be:

-Announce the reason for the meeting;

-Give specific explanations;

-State the terms (does the employee leave immediately, are they still employed, when will they receive severance pay, etc.);

-Hand over administrative paperwork;

-End the meeting.

If possible, more “technical” steps, such as delivering the termination letter, can be done by a neutral person other than the boss.

10. Never Lose Sight of Your Organization’s Values

In short, the dismissal should be handled by your business in the same way as the hiring and onboarding process—in a delicate, tactful and forward-thinking way.


Things to Keep in Mind to Do It Right:

  • Conduct frequent and transparent performance evaluations to avoid springing unpleasant surprises on your employees at all costs;
  • Where possible, work on an improvement plan in the event of a problem with a member of your team;
  • If you still have to fire an employee, the key things to keep in mind are empathy, honesty and clarity;
  • Always fire an employee in person and in private, and not in public;
  • If possible, fire an employee at the end of a day, so that they won’t have to leave the premises in front of their coworkers;
  • If possible, don’t require your employee to continue working after being dismissed;
  • As an employer, keep your emotions under control: your employee should not have to absorb your discomfort, pain or stress;
  • Get straight to the point: proceed as quickly as possible during the dismissal meeting;
  • If possible, leave the dismissal paperwork or technicalities to a more neutral third party.

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