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​How do You Sack Someone Kindly?

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If you’ve watched ‘The Apprentice’ you may be forgiven for thinking that, while Lord Sugar appears to deliberately long and hard about the decision to remove one of the contestants, the act of firing someone is as easy as pointing a finger and saying, “You’re fired!” Not only that, but the employee you’ve just eliminated from your payroll will thank you for the opportunity he or she has been afforded.

Sacking someone is never that easy. In fact, in my experience it’s one of the most stressful situations in which a manager will ever find himself or herself.

It’s worth remembering that while it’s a hard task to perform – after all, you may like and respect the employee as a person – it is an action that is worse for the employee being sacked. You’ve still got your job and your income; the person you’re sacking probably has debts to pay, perhaps a mortgage and a family to support, and is suddenly left with no income and a blot on his or her CV.

So how do you soften the blow? How do you sack someone with compassion?

When sacking someone, always ‘dot the I’s and cross the T’s’.

Unless the sacking is for a misdemeanor or gross misconduct, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. There’s a ‘fair and consistent procedure’ that must be followed. Unfair dismissal claims are a real threat once an employee has been employed for two years, and all employees have basic rights from the moment they are employed.

Your organisation’s policies and disciplinary and grievance procedures must contain the conditions under which gross misconduct will be considered, but also should contain an outline of how poor performance in the workplace will be handled. Sticking to this will ensure you aren’t sued for wrongful dismissal.

Always ensure a sacking is justified – the A,B,C of dismissal

There’s a simple formula to ensure that a sacking is justified:

1.Informal warning

Meet with the employee confidentially to discuss the problem. This may be performance or attitude. Try to get to the heart of the issue, agree the actions needed to improve to a satisfactory level, and agree a timescale for improvement. Keep a record of the conversation and send a memo with the details to the employee.

It may also be appropriate to have a ‘mid-term’ meeting to discuss what progress has been made toward the goals that have been set.

2.Formal warning

At the time set by the first meeting, if the improvement required has not been made then a formal warning will need to be issued. This will put the employee on full-alert of the seriousness of the situation. Again this must be accompanied by targets for improvement and a timetable for improvements to be made.

Issue a letter to the employee detailing the meeting, the reasons for it (for example poor performance, poor timekeeping, inappropriate behaviours), and the actions required by the employee.

(Acas has produced a Code of Practice that covers disciplinary and grievance procedures.)


If the employee still fails to improve as required, then the final step is the dismissal. If the employee has been prepared for this by the process followed, it shouldn’t come as a shock. However, doing the deed the Lord Sugar way is never to be recommended.

Softening the blow – 7 tips to sack someone kindly

How the manager conducts the dismissal meeting will say a lot about the manager and the organisation. If the sacking is undertaken correctly, there is no reason why the manager and employee should not part ways amiably. Here are seven tips to sack someone kindly

1.Do it early in the week and early in the day

Never sack someone on a Friday. You give him or her the weekend to fret. An early week and early day sacking allows the sacked employee to start their search for a new job quickly, and this new focus in itself helps to soften the blow.

2.Always do the deed face-to-face

If you’ve ever been ‘dumped’ via text, phone, or letter, you’ll know how unfair it feels. Don’t make the same mistake when sacking an employee; it’s far better to split amicably than to leave a bitter aftertaste.

3.Be precise and to-the-point

Explain that the decision to dismiss is for cause, but don’t go into the details. Keep it short and sweet, and ensure the employee knows when he or she is expected to leave the workplace. Avoid getting into an argument, and have a box of tissues available for tears.

Make the message one of the job isn’t a good fit, and help the employee to see that his or her talents will find a better fit elsewhere. Ensure the employee understands this is a business decision.

Always have a witness at the dismissal meeting.

4.Explain the next steps

During the meeting, you should explain severance terms including pay and other benefits that the employee will be entitled to post-dismissal.

The employee may also be concerned about what you might say if anyone calls for a reference. Put their mind at ease by pre-empting this concern and telling them. (You may need to seek advice on this before the dismissal meeting.)

If the employee has company property, arrange to have this returned.

5.Let the employee say their goodbyes

The employee is likely to have made friends among his or her colleagues. Let them say their goodbyes, if they wish to. Give them the option to say they have quit to save their pride.

6.Offer them a lift home

The employee may be in a state of disarray; upset and unable to concentrate. Offer to call and pay for a taxi home. Perhaps he or she would prefer to be picked up by his or her partner, a friend, or family member; try to ensure that the employee is not on his or her own when travelling home.


Gather the team together at the earliest opportunity and explain what has happened. Again, no details should be discussed but instead avail the team of the ‘poor fit’ reason and that the sacking is the best way forward for the business and the sacked employee. Let the team know that they can ask questions privately if they wish, and reassure them that their efforts are appreciated.

Finally reassign the dismissed employee’s duties quickly.

In conclusion

Sacking someone is never a pleasant experience. But it doesn’t have to be done without compassion. Make the process as kind as possible, observing the organisation’s due process and policies, and it can be done amiably and without shock or embarrassment. Stick with the overriding message that the job is not a good fit for the individual. This will help the dismissed person not only to understand his or her sacking, but also to maintain his or her dignity.

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