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Terminating an Employee

An unfortunate reality of being a small-business owner is that it is sometimes necessary to terminate an employee. Many small operations do not have a human resources department or departmental managers, so the responsibility lies with you. Discharging an employee, whether due to cost containment or for cause, is never easy, but following these guidelines may help smooth the process:

1. Do your homework in advance. Know exactly why you are terminating the individual and have your facts straight.

2. Be brief. The termination meeting should be no more than 10 minutes in duration. Keep to the facts.

3. Be prepared to allow the person to collect his/her personal effects after hours or on the weekend to save face. Bear in mind, being terminated is humbling and embarrassing. Always treat the individual with dignity.

4. Avoid such platitudes as "I know how you are feeling." You probably don’t. Be firm but fair. If the person cries, let it happen no matter how uncomfortable you may feel.

There can be serious legal consequences when terminating people. Review each termination situation well in advance with an employment lawyer to see if there may be potential exposure.

John Challenger


Challenger, Gray & Christmas


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