How To Fire An Employee

There's a right way to do this and a wrong way
There’s a right way to do this and a wrong way
Image Credit: Sean MacEntee

It’s not a pleasant part of the job, but there will come a time where you have a need to terminate one of the members of your IT team. There can be a whole host of reasons for this: poor work performance, companywide layoffs, theft, etc. When it comes time to let this person go, do you have the IT manager skills to know the right (and wrong) way to go about doing it?

Do The Job Yourself

I don’t like having to be the one who delivers bad news to the employee that I am letting go. If there was any way that I could pass this job off to someone else, I sure would. However, I realize that this is one job that must be done by me. If someone else showed up and told my team member that they were being fired, then there would be the question in their mind if I knew what was going on. They would start to wonder if this termination was for real or if it was a mistake. Only by having me deliver the bad news can questions like this be put to rest before they even show up.

Always Have A Witness

Any termination will generate a lot of emotion in the person who is being let go. In order to protect yourself, you are always going to want to have a witness present when you let the person go. The witness can be another manager or a representative from HR. If the person who is fired becomes very upset, they may choose to start a legal action against the company for wrongful termination. If this happens, there is a very good chance that a case of “he said / she said” might come up in regards to the actual firing. It can only help your case to have a reliable witness present.

It Must Be In Writing

When you are being fired, your mind pretty much shuts down the moment you realize why your boss there to talk with you. What this means for you as an IT manager is that pretty much nothing that you say to your former employee after “you’re fired” will stick in their head. There is a lot of important information that they are going to need: how to apply for COBRA benefits, how to pick up their last paycheck, etc. What you need to do is to write all of this critical information down and then leave a printout with the employee that has just been let go.

Make It Quick

One of the questions that I get asked by many IT managers is just exactly how much time they should spend when they are firing an employee. This is a good question. In the end, you want to make it as quick as possible so that you can leave the employee to deal with their new situation. What we need to understand is that a firing is less of a conversation and much more like a notification. I generally recommend spending no more than 15-20 minutes with the employee when you are firing them.

What All Of This Means For You

When we become an IT manager, we were filled with excitement about the job. What we may not have realized is that there is a downside to this job: the need to occasionally fire someone even if we don’t have the IT manager training to do it. This is almost the opposite of IT team building. The reasons for the firing can be many and varied, but it’s how we go about doing it that will really matter.

When it comes time to let a member of our team go, we need to show up and do the job ourselves. This is not a task that can be delegated. It is important to make sure that you have a witness to the firing – these can be emotional times and who said what may be important later on. Always bring a copy of the termination notice in writing. The person being fired won’t be able to remember what you said after “You’re Fired”. Finally, make the firing quick. This is a painful event for the employee and there is no reason to make it last any longer than it needs to.

The key thing for you to remember as an IT manager is that the person that you are letting go will go on to tell other people about both your company and you. If you handle their termination in a professional way they may still be upset about being let go, but at least they won’t blame you.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: When laying off an employee where should you do it: their cube, your office, or someplace else?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

In most workplaces we’ve been using our IT manager skills to work with the members of our teams in order turn them into the leaders that we know that they can be. However, what this has created is a workplace that is filled with leaders (and leader wanna-bes). What is missing is followers – someone for all of the leaders to lead. Does anyone know how to be a good follower?