The Do’s and Don’ts of Termination

Terminations are never easy, but are often necessary. As a small business or manager, it’s extremely common to be uncertain about the appropriate way to terminate an employee. We often get caught up in the fears and unknowns of termination, as well as the emotion that surrounds the process of letting someone go. You may ask yourself:

  • “Will they file a lawsuit?”
  • “Will they post about it on social media?”
  • “Did I document everything factually?”

These questions are completely normal, but don’t fret! We’re here to ease the toll of terminations for all parties involved with some helpful do’s and don’ts:


  1. Document often and accurately. Make sure you have sufficient documentation for terminating an employee. The documentation needs to be based on facts, not feelings and not hearsay. The documentation should mirror any previous conversations with the employee regarding any issues prior to the termination. This ensures that the employee has been made aware of the concerns and has had an opportunity to correct the issue.
  2. Come to the separation meeting prepared. Know what you are going to say and be clear in your communication to the employee.  Be sure to:
    1. Have any needed documentation for the meeting
    2. Have a list of any company equipment they need to return
    3. Gather all company items prior to their departure
  3. Have someone with you in the meeting room where the termination is taking place. This person needs to be an HR representative or another supervisor to serve as a witness and to help explain the terms of the termination.
  4. Have the meeting in private. Whether it is an office or even outside of the office, it is important that it is private and not done in front of other employees. To communicate a termination to your company, say something like, “Employee A no longer works for our company.” Protect the employee’s privacy. Details of the termination are not necessary to the other employees.
  5. Change all passwords and login information immediately upon termination. We often forget the access employees have to company resources due to vast technology. Make sure to make a list of all the access points and either change passwords and login information or reach out to your IT department to cut off access.



  1. Don’t talk about the termination with other employees before, during, or after the termination. This is a private matter and it is in the best interest of the company and the employee not to share the details of the termination with other employees.
  2. Don’t apologize or say “I hate to do this.” Being prepared and practicing what you will say will help with this. Too many times we see managers and business owners apologize, and it only makes things worse. While it may make you feel better, it sends mixed messages and makes the employee being terminated feel even worse.
  3. Don’t argue with the employee. The decision has been made and it is not a negotiation. Keep the meeting straight and to the point.
  4. Don’t offer to provide a reference. Some managers do this during termination meetings because they think it will help the separating employee feel better. It actually makes things worse by confusing the employee and creating a liability for the company.  Why would you provide a reference if you’re terminating the employee for cause?

Letting an employee go is a life trajectory change for that person, with both good and bad implications. Sometimes people need a wake-up call or motivation to move on to the next chapter in their life. It isn’t always a good fit, and that is okay. However, please consider and be aware of the feelings and sensitivity of the employee you are terminating. Try to put yourself in their shoes as you are speaking with them and exiting them from the company.

Even when following all of our recommendations, terminations are tough. But we’re here to help you through it. Don’t put your company at liability when terminating employees. It’s not worth it!

Jessica Lorello, HR Operations Specialist