The 60-Second Guide to Letting an Employee Go

Letting an employee go is a difficult and emotional task for most small business owners. In just 60-seconds, you’ll learn how to conduct a tactful termination.

0:60 Understand “With Cause” or “Without Cause”
There are a number of scenarios where you may have to terminate an employee. Determine if you’re terminating “with cause” or “without cause.” A “with cause” case is when an employee has violated company policy or done something obviously wrong, such as drinking or using drugs in the workplace, stealing or sexual harassment. “Without cause” situations arise when an employee turns out to lack the skills or efficiency necessary to perform the job successfully.

0:49 Consider the Employee’s Length of Service
Termination is easiest to handle when problems emerge in the first 30 days of a new hire’s employment. In those instances, explain to the employee that the arrangement is not working out. Letting a long-term employee go is more difficult. If you are terminating an employee for misconduct, let them go immediately. If you’re terminating based on performance, document the problem over time with dates and details.

0: 38 Prepare for the Discussion
Before the conversation with the employee make a list of the issues. Think through your delivery. Plan to have the conversation in a private setting. Be ready to clarify what the person has done wrong and to explain that he or she will not be able to continue working for your company. Do not let the termination become a negotiation.

0:25 Be Civil and Respectful
When you meet with the employee, let them know you’ve spent time coming to the decision and that the matter is not open to discussion. Handle the termination respectfully and explain that you regret that it has come to this point. Thank the person for their service.

0:10: Learn from the Experience
Think about what you might do different the next time you hire a person or how you could convey your expectations better. Each experience improves your ability to hire the right people for your business.



SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship.

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