What to Say When Firing an Employee

The following dialogue provides an excerpt from a firing that involves an employee who had sincerely tried to do his job but just hadn’t been able to perform at a satisfactory level.

what to say when firing someone

Do not express false praise when firing an employee.

Note how the manager shows patience and expresses sympathy but does not offer false praise or waver in his decision. In this excerpt, one manager is handling the termination procedure.

Related: How to Fire an Employee: A Difficult Process Made Easier

Have Another Manager Present When Firing Someone

It is good practice, however, to have another manager present. Ideally, the second manager should not be someone the employee reported to either directly or indirectly. If the firing does not go smoothly, the second manager can be called upon as a witness should any legal action ensue at some later point.

Related: When Should You Fire an Employee?

What to Say:

Manager: Tom, please have a seat.

Tom: Thank you.

Manager: Tom, I know that you have tried hard to succeed at your job. Nonetheless, for some months now, your overall performance has not been satisfactory. There are too many instances of errors in the accounts payable reports and your attempts to carefully check over each report have slowed down the pace of your work considerably. We cannot retain you in this position and we must let you go.

Tom: You mean, I’m fired? 

Manager: Yes, we are going to have to let you go. I am very sorry that this did not work out.

Tom: I know I can do the job. Give me another chance. I really like working here.

Manager: Tom, we have given you at least two written warnings and several verbal warnings.

Tom: But my supervisor says the quality of my work is improving.

Manager: Although the number of errors has decreased, the quality is still not satisfactory. And in working to decrease the amount of errors, your work pace has become unsatisfactory. I know you have tried . . . but it’s still not working out.

Tom: What about another position? I’ve never really liked payables. How about the entry-level position in accounts receivable? I’ll really give it my all.

Manager: Tom, it’s time to move on. We all like you here. This is a difficult decision for all of us. But the decision has been made. We have given this decision a lot of thought. We know it is difficult for you. And we did not make this decision lightly.

Tom: I don’t think this is fair. I think I should get another chance.

Manager: Tom, I sympathize with your feelings. But we have given the situation a lot of thought. It was not an easy decision to make. We regret to tell you that this is our final decision. We will miss you here, Tom. We truly wish you the best.

What to Say When Firing Someone: Takeaways You Can Use

  • Resist the temptation to soften the blow with false praise.
  • Show sympathy, but remain firm in your decision.
  • When possible, it is wise to have a second manager present for a firing.

How to Avoid a Lawsuit When Firing an Employee