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How do you fire someone with dignity?

Firing an employee is never easy for either party involved. Make employee termination as dignified as possible.

We can’t stress enough how important it is to terminate an employee with dignity. Avoid humiliation. Recognize that termination from a job is difficult for the terminated employee. Use empathy when firing an employee.

It’s important to consider your own feelings before you start the termination process. Emotional wellness makes you a better leader, so take stock of your own emotions about the termination. Don’t let employee termination happen suddenly. Give the employee warnings, performance reviews, and chances to redeem themselves before terminating their position. 

Think about whether this termination is best for the team. Be encouraging. Give the employee in question opportunities for success before termination.

Below are the five best tips for how to fire someone with dignity:

Terminating an Employee

1. Prepare For the Termination Meeting

Be prepared to communicate clearly without tripping over your words during the termination meeting. If it’s appropriate, offer to write a letter of recommendation for the terminated employee. Prepare to leave space in the conversation for the employee. The meeting shouldn’t just be about you telling the person they’re fired.

You should know what you’re going to say going into the termination meeting while also leaving room for the employee to speak.

  • Have your meeting in an empty conference room away from the eyes of the other employees. This will help the terminated employee feel a sense of dignity and less humiliation. 
  • Think about why you’re terminating this employee.
  • Make sure your half of the conversation includes carefully chosen words.
  • Be compassionate and understanding.
  • Remember – empathy!

Prepare to offer an open conversation with the terminated employee about the reason for their termination. Make yourself available to answer any questions they may have about employee termination. 

Open communication is key. Be prepared to go over every step of the process with the terminated employee. This will help them better understand the situation and make their next steps.

2. Keep Feelings in Mind When Terminating An Employee

How to fire someone with dignity may not be something you learned when you became a manager or supervisor. But it’s one of the most important parts of your job, including open communication. You need to be clear with the employee about why they were hired in the first place and why you are terminating them now.

Make sure you keep your own feelings as the employer in check. You may feel anxious or guilty about terminating an employee. Give yourself a break and think about the bigger picture – the future of the company and the work environment.

If the employee being terminated becomes abusive or inappropriate, don’t give in. Stand up for yourself and the company. Be firm in your resolve.

The terminated employee may be surprised, no matter how many warnings or bad performance reviews they’ve received. Be transparent, honest, and as open as you can about the reasons for termination. 

Try to end on a positive note. Give the terminated employee resources to search for jobs. Let them know that you valued their contributions and give words of encouragement.

3. Don’t Humiliate the Employee – Treat the Employee With Dignity

It’s difficult to know how to fire someone with dignity when it’s so easily perceived as a humiliating moment in the employee’s life. Treat an employee you’re terminating with respect. 

Avoid firing the employee in front of their coworkers. This is humiliating for the employee and uncomfortable for their colleagues.

The others may wonder if they’ll be next. Speculation about what happened with the terminated employee may occur. You want to avoid as much office gossip and assumptions as possible.

Although the firing shouldn’t happen in front of the other employees, you should communicate with them what happened and that the person was terminated. Don’t go into unnecessary detail, but you’ll need them to know how the termination will affect their responsibilities and workload until the position is filled.

If at all possible, begin the employee termination process after everyone else has left. However, make sure you communicate with the team the next day what happened so that it doesn’t feel like the terminated employee simply disappeared. It might be a good idea to allow the terminated employee the option of saying goodbye if at all possible. Use your discretion to decide when is the best time in the day for employee termination.

4. Don’t Delegate the Termination

As the manager or supervisor, you should be the one to fire the employee. However, it is always a good idea to have someone from HR in the room for legal reasons in case the terminated employee decides to sue. 

You also demonstrate integrity as a manager if you terminate the employee yourself. It’s part of your job as the boss to terminate people who aren’t performing well, no matter how much you hate it. 

If you delegate the termination to someone else, it may humiliate the terminated employee. They may wonder why you didn’t do it yourself. It’s also important to make sure you terminate the employee face-to-face. This is another way to terminate an employee with dignity.

5. Have a Transition Management Program

Transition management programs allow the employee to prepare for transitioning out of employment at your company. 

This program focuses on who will take over the position or duties. Transition management is done between the manager or supervisor and the employee. If the terminated employee was laid off, however, HR gets involved. Otherwise, this program is between you and your terminated employee.

Employee Termination

Terminating an Employee With Dignity

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to how to fire someone with dignity. Terminated employees may be surprised, shocked, upset, angry, sad, or humiliated.

It’s not your job to shield employees from feeling surprised, shocked, upset, angry, or sad, but it is your job to take their feelings into account when terminating an employee with dignity and avoid humiliation.

Being fired can be humiliating. Terminating an employee with dignity is crucial in maintaining your status as a good manager. It’s also important when it comes to how you treat your employees. The way you fire an employee says a lot about you as a manager. Treat the terminated employee with the same dignity you’d like to be treated.

Termination Resources

Next Steps

If you want to discuss resources for how to fire someone with dignity, we are here to help. Contact us for a free consultation today.


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