Termination tips and best practices


People are the backbone of your organization. These termination tips can be part of a one of the most critical steps in organizational practice, which is making a good hire. An individual who fits in well with the culture, who meets or exceeds job expectations, has excellent quality of character, and gets along well with others are just a few factors that go into choosing a new teammate.

However, despite best efforts, sometimes things just don’t work out. Perhaps the screening process missed something, or performance just isn’t up to expectation. When that happens, it may become necessary to consider termination. While never an easy task, following these termination tips and best practices can help ensure the health and productivity of your organization for years to come.

When should employment be terminated?

In a nutshell, termination should always be the path of last resort, when all other options have been exhausted. When considering the time, effort and resources it takes to fill a position plus subsequent onboarding or training to get a new hire up to speed, it’s smarter to work with an employee as much as possible before considering termination. This is also why it’s so important to have a robust and comprehensive hiring process and a culture that’s attractive to individuals with both talent and integrity.

When problems do arise, either between team members or due to lackluster performance, it’s important for management to get to the root of the problem. Leaders should address the issue with the employee through proper channels and according to policy regulations. Correction, guidance and additional resources may be appropriate tools to assist the employee(s) in overcoming the difficulty and getting back on track. In most cases, these actions will be enough to address and overcome the problem…but not always. If the difficulty continues to impede performance or negatively affect others’ work, it may be time to consider termination.

There are, of course, instances where a termination may need to be put into effect swiftly and decisively, such as in cases of gross misconduct, severe policy violation, breach of contract or lawbreaking. Fortunately, these scenarios tend to be the exception rather than the rule. If the case is not serious, it’s prudent to exhaust all other avenues before proceeding to termination.

Related: Staying in compliance: Avoiding common HR mistakes

Termination tips and best practices

When conducting an employee termination, refer to the policies and procedures your organization already has in place. Like hiring practices, it’s good to ensure these are up-to-date, robust and in compliance with any applicable employment laws and regulations before it becomes necessary to lean on them in a termination case. In general, the following termination tips and best practices can usually help a termination go as smoothly as possible.

  • Adhere to policy and procedure. As previously stated, it’s important to comply with your internal policies as well as external laws and regulations, to protect your organization from any allegations of wrongdoing after the termination is commenced.
  • Documentation. The issues leading up to the termination, corrective actions, and the termination itself should all be carefully documented. This written record will be the evidence that justifies your actions if you must defend your organization in a legal action pertaining to the termination.
  • Act on facts, not feelings. Even in the best of cases, termination is emotionally fraught for both the employer and the employee. While there’s no getting around the emotions of the issue, refrain from leaning on them as justification for your actions when creating your documentation. Focus on the facts, rather than your feelings.
  • Be compassionate and understanding. While all documentation should be based in fact, in-person interactions with the terminated employee should be both professional and compassionate. No one likes firing people, and no one likes being fired. While emotions should not be acted on, they should not be disregarded entirely.
  • Conduct the termination in person. A great way to validate the emotions of the situation is to conduct terminations in person. Any other method, such as over the phone, text or email will likely be interpreted as the employer “taking the easy way out,” and will likely be interpreted by the employee as impersonal at best, disrespectful at worst.
  • Conduct the termination privately, but with a witness. Terminations should never be conducted in public. However, it’s important to have a witness on hand to both provide support and corroborate your subsequent documentation. The supervisor and a human resources professional often make for a good team to carry out a termination.
  • Go over benefits. The benefits a terminated employee is entitled to could vary depending on the nature of the circumstances that led to termination but may include a referral and severance package. Emphasizing these things can help ease the sting of a termination and help end the interaction on a positive note.

Final thoughts

Best Practices for Terminating an Employee
Hiring and Firing: What Every Business Owner Should Know
5 Best Practices for Terminating an Employee
Skip to content