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Letting an employee go is never easy. It’s one of the hardest things employers like you have to do.

However, if you’ve got a situation on your hands and you know deep down it’s time — here are some tips on how to manage the process so that when all is said and done, you’ll have a clear conscience and confidence that you’ve done the right thing for your team:

Never fire on the spot. It’s never wise to terminate an employee on-the-spot without any inquiry, discussion, or discipline — no matter how severe the offense is. If necessary, issue a leave of absence pending a further investigation. This will give you time to review the situation carefully.
Delaying the conversation makes it harder for everyone. Firing should be the final step in a fair and open process that began long before the actual termination talk — and there should be paperwork to prove it. Dick Grote, a management consultant in Dallas, Texas, and author of How to Be Good at Performance Appraisals says, “Managers rarely regret acting too quickly on a termination, but they have regretted waiting too long.”
Lean on your HR department. Although you’ll be the one sharing the hard news, lean on the support and guidance of your HR team since 1) they have a fuller picture of the employee’s situation, and 2) it’s more comfortable (and legally astute) to have someone from HR attend the meeting.
Consult an employment attorney. It may be a good idea to consult an employment attorney — especially if an employee is in a protected class, has a known health condition or disability, has taken medical leave, or if there is suspicion of harassment.
Be brief, to the point, and keep the meeting short. Before the meeting, plan out what you’ll say and make sure you’re clear on your reasons for termination. Keep the meeting short and share the news clearly and quickly. Be available for future conversations if your employee needs clarification or has questions — but keep the initial meeting brief for everyone’s sake.
Be the last one to leave the room. It’s tempting to want to leave the room as soon as possible and let HR handle the rest. Grote disagrees with this approach. “Leadership demands compassion,” he says. Staying in the room is your responsibility and quite simply the right thing to do.
Circle up with your team. After your colleague has left, circle up with the rest of your team (the ones most affected by the termination) to address the matter. The rumor mill is likely on overdrive but refrain from revealing the reasons behind your decision. Not only is that information confidential, but it also hurts culture and company morale. Do share encouragement for the short term and vision for the long term.
Give yourself grace. Letting someone go takes a toll on you, so give yourself time to walk through your thoughts and emotions. It’s normal to feel distracted and down for a few days afterward.