Guide On How To Fire An Employee Safely

Part 1 of 2

Every day, across the country, employees leave their place of employment for a variety of reasons. Statistics vary depending on the source, but around 1% of employees lose their jobs due to termination for cause. Another 2+% are let go due to lay-offs, down-sizing, “re-engineering”, and other events beyond their control. How you plan for these terminations and how they are executed matters. A poorly planned notification can easily escalate from hurt feelings and bad commentary on social media. In the worst case, it may result in workplace violence. Recent events have shown that a disgruntled, hostile employee can quickly turn into an active shooter/assailant.

How can you avoid this worst-case scenario? As with most activities involving people there is rarely a 100% guarantee. However, if you plan using best practices, and follow through with professional execution, you can minimize the potential for a delicate situation turning violent. Also, with proper planning, you will be prepared in the event a worst-case scenario does arise.

First, terminations should not be spur of the moment. They need to be considered carefully, and should involve an appropriate team –  human resources, legal, management, and security. This approach works for organizations large and small; however, in small organizations, one individual may take on multiple roles. In planning for a termination, whether for cause or due to a lay-off, the whole team needs to be coordinated and do its homework.

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What Are The Potential Risks?

  • Why is the employee being terminated?
  • What is the employee’s recent attitude toward the company and co-workers?
  • Have any threats been made?
  • Is there any history of violence?
  • Are there any other reasons to be concerned over this termination?

Who Will Handle The Termination?

  • Human Resources should have a representative, if only as a witness and to monitor termination.
  • The direct supervisor is usually best to present the termination news, unless there is already built up hostility. You don’t want to make a difficult situation worse. The team should collectively choose who is best suited to make the actual termination and two people, including the HR rep, should be present.
  • If direct security support is needed, they should be positioned nearby – in an adjacent room or even in the designated termination room if deemed necessary. The employee being terminated should always be treated with respect, but when it comes to personnel security, err on the side of caution!

When And Where Will The Termination Take Place?

  • In the best interests of other employees and out of sensitivity to the terminated employee, pick a time and location that minimizes exposure to anyone not involved in the termination.
  • A neutral location such as a conference room is best and make sure that it is large enough that you won’t intentionally or accidentally block exits.
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Be Generous With Severance Packages.

  • Meet the requirements of the law and be consistent with past company practices.
  • A small expenditure to provide a few weeks’ severance pay and benefits, can go a long way to “softening the landing” and minimizing hostility.
  • Prepare a letter to the employee that clearly spells out the terms of the severance. Present the letter at the termination.

Notify Any Potentially Needed Resources.

  • Plan to terminate cyber system access and electronic key card access.
  • Notify local security officers as appropriate.
  • If outside security support may be needed, err on the side of caution. A professional security organization experienced in providing support during terminations is best, but off-duty police may also be hired for short term support.


“By Failing to Prepare, You are Preparing to Fail” – Ben Franklin

In Part II we will discuss the “day of.” Managing the employee termination.

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