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6 Tips on How to Fire an Employee with Dignity

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Many businesses have been struggling financially since the start of the Covid-19 Pandemic. As a result, companies are forced to cut down their costs in order to stay afloat. One of these expenses is salaries and benefits associated with human resources.

Although downsizing your team might be entirely necessary, doing so is extremely difficult for the involved parties. In fact, dismissing staff is a horrible experience even when you need to make necessary cuts or weed out unproductive workers.

However, knowing how to fire an employee with dignity and compassion is the key to keeping your company in business. So then, here are the tips on how to lay off your employee.

1.   Be Clear with the Affected Employee

While firing someone can be painful, it’s better to go straight to the point instead of being very gentle and beating around the bush. Doing this will confuse the employee even when you get firmer in your words.

It starts by being clear when you’re hiring them. As the HR or unit manager, do adequate research about the candidate, clearly explain what their job entails, and be clear about the skills you’re looking for to avoid hiring someone who can’t perform their duties well.

When firing them, go straight to the point as soon as the meeting starts. In other words, don’t discuss the last night’s news, football match or weather. Discuss issues related to their lat paycheck, health insurance and unemployment benefits.

2.   Keep their Feelings in Mind

You're fired

Treat your employee with dignity even if you’re just about to dismiss them. Telling your staff that you’re fired in front of others is humiliating them. Instead, invite them for a meeting in your office and fire them in private and behind closed doors.

Remember, the news is as horrible to the other employees as it is to the affected individual. So firing their colleague in front of them will drain their morale. Actually, it’s recommended to fire someone when their colleagues leave in the evening. This will help the person clear their workstation and leave the company without their coworkers looking at him with pity.

It’s also advisable to have a witness when firing an employee. If you’re their supervisor, ensure that someone from HR is with you in the room. A witness will confirm that you legally and ethically fired the individual in the event they come back at you with a lawsuit. Further, an employee can get violent or aggressive during the firing meeting, so it’s best to have a backup.

3.   Ensure Your Actions are Legal

All employees should sign a contract when you hire them. Otherwise, employees hired at-will will be terminated from their employment as you wish. Firing someone due to discrimination, taking medical leave, or any other reason not stated in the contract can land you in trouble.

Therefore ensure that the contract states all the reasons why you can terminate their employment. Also, don’t break the contract if the employee has not violated it.

4.   Avoid Being Overly Soft

Although it’s beneficially to be firm, it doesn’t mean that you should be cruel either. What it means is that you shouldn’t be overly soft about this difficult situation. Remember that even though they will be no longer be working for you, they’re humans.

Therefore answer their questions and assist them where possible such as in their future job search and when they need a reference. In fact, it will be helpful if you’re compassionate.

5.   Be Mindful of the Timing

It’s important to be respectful when firing your employees. One way of doing that is by telling them upfront why you’re terminating their employment. In fact, you should tell them why you have called them to your office is to discuss their termination.

If they’re losing their job because of their poor performance, you can tell them that the job demands don’t match their abilities instead of telling them that they’re not a good match.

Remain professional, even if their misconduct caused their termination. Firing an employee because of a mistake helps them learn from it and correct the act.

As above mentioned, you can reserve this process for late in the day, especially when their coworkers are not present, so that they don’t feel ashamed walking out of the office. Neither should you fire them on a Friday afternoon.

Firing them during the week allows them to speak with benefits or payroll officer, the company therapist or physician or others who can only be seen during working office hours.

6.   Maintain Communication

Terminating someone’s employment shouldn’t make you enemies. Actually, it’s recommended that you should maintain open communication with your former employees if possible. You can use this opportunity to tell them why it didn’t work out and offer a reference in the future.

Doing that shows them that the door between you two is still open. Still, maintaining a civil conversation can prevent a future disaster, such as when people feel discriminated against.

Additionally, you can help them transition to new roles, especially when you downsize to cut costs due to the pandemic or other economic reasons.


It’s important to distinguish between the employee and the act of terminating their services. Doing so helps you to keep the dignity of the affected individual intact. An employee who feels good about themselves will accept why you’re firing them, which will help them move forward.

Bosses that have applied the above tips have a good relationship with their former employees, and some of them serve as their brand ambassadors. Therefore it’s important to be fire an employee with dignity and compassion.

Kossi Adzo is the editor and author of He is software engineer. Innovation, Businesses and companies are his passion. He filled several patents in IT & Communication technologies. He manages the technical operations at

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