How to Fire Someone

There are generally 5 steps likely to be made upon firing an employee.

Patrick Curtis

Reviewed by

Patrick Curtis

Expertise: Private Equity | Investment Banking


January 12, 2023

Many employers like to think that hiring is a difficult process; however, firing someone is exponentially more difficult for several reasons.

Not only is firing someone a hard decision for you, but also it puts the employee under stress because of the financial, emotional, and physical consequences that their layoff may cause to families and friends.

Therefore, you must ensure everything is in order before you fire the employee. If it is carried out hastily without first taking the required precautions, it may result in an unsettling circumstance for everyone involved.

In addition, there is the possibility that legal problems will emerge, each of which has the potential to cause significant harm to your company. Human resources specialists and other experts offer various approaches to politely firing an employee. 

Steps to Firing an Employee

There are generally 5 steps likely to be made upon firing an employee.

Unethical behavior comprises a wide range of transgressions, including but not limited to manipulating company records, lying about work responsibilities, and concealing information that, if made public, could have a devastating effect on public relations. 

It can also entail expressing strong political opinions that others in the workplace or outside the company find undesirable. Any act of unethical behavior, regardless of how severe it may be, is sufficient cause for termination.


Prepare an honest and correct response that describes the situation without going into depth or blaming the employee. You want the employee to keep his or her dignity during a job departure.

Finally, say something like, “we wish you the best of luck in your future pursuits and hope that you will find a position that is a better fit for you.”

Provide the employee with the opportunity to improve their work-related performance

Before you fire someone and get rid of them completely, you should give them ample time to get their act together (e.g., 1 to 2 months).

Let’s be real; there is something like a mental block causing them to produce poor results.

Especially if you are a top investment bank, you have some of the smartest, type-A undergrads working for you from some of the top-notch business schools worldwide.

Instead of inflicting such a harsh punishment (i.e., firing them), see if you can identify the root cause of the inadequacies and attempt to improve them.


It is hard to see a former employee and team member leave the culture, and extremely time-consuming to hire a brand-new employee.

Lastly, ensure that this employee termination does not surprise said individual. It is always important to clarify that you have recently been disappointed with their work results.

You should never sugarcoat your intent with someone whose performance has let you down, and other team members should be on the same page regarding their lack of effort – not just you because you are often biased.

Get everything in order beforehand

Be sure to have a general outline of what you will say to your employee.


The employee will likely be emotionally distraught and caught off guard that you no longer find them worthwhile for the company. Especially because you or a trusted co-worker hired them, you will have a tough time letting them go because you spent a lot of time training them.

Furthermore, it is advised to be in a clear head-space – neither party is looking to engage in a yelling match!


Remember to keep everything to a minimum – be transparent in your reasoning and concise and direct in your communication.

Firing someone is never a pleasant experience, regardless of the motivation behind the decision.

Furthermore, it is advised to make every effort to create a smooth transition for your employee regardless of what you think of them. The individual that you are firing will be extremely flustered and caught off-guard! 

Do NOT make up false accusations

When terminating an employee, you need to keep your attention on particular facts and refrain from attacking the individual as a person.


You also need to comply with the rules particular to your location regarding notice and, in some cases, severance pay.

Suppose you are ever in doubt of your judgment and resulting actions. In that case, you will most certainly document appropriate conversations and actions taken by the said individual regarding termination.


Remember to always focus on the facts and the law. Be honest.

Your and your employee's best interest is to stick with facts and not generate a case for non-existent performance problems.

Poor job performance (as detailed below) is one of the many legitimate reasons to fire your employee.

Inferior work products and extensive, unwarranted leave of absence are reasons you may fire your employee.

Again, anytime you have built-up records of your staff member delivering sub-par results are justifiable reasons – not made-up stories based on subjective opinions!

Keep it private

Additionally, you will want to plan the time, date, and location. Try your best to have it as early in the week as possible; never fire someone on a Friday!

Not only is that incredibly humiliating, but nobody wants to ruin their weekend like that!

Terminating your employee should only impact the business on days when there are little to no important activities.

Conference rooms are often considered a great place for this action because they are private and secluded.


If you are going to bring someone else into the room where you fire your employee, it is highly advised that you bring someone from human resources (HR).

Even if you happen to be present during your employee’s misdemeanor, you NEED to ensure that you are correcting them in private. Nobody likes to be thrown under the bus in front of co-workers and, most importantly, close friends.

In a similar light, you should be conscientious and ensure that no one is within earshot of the unfortunate news – it is often frowned upon to be fired from a job.

Don’t be that employer your former employee bad-mouths on the internet because you couldn’t professionally handle things!

Thank the employee and wish them the best of luck

The bottom line of this point (up front) is that you must make the employees exit as best as possible.

This means you should have someone accompany them while they pack their personal belongings and return company gear/equipment.

Additionally, while you may be grabbing their keys and personal identification card (ID), you will want to thank them for their continuous efforts and service.

It is recommended that you remind them that life is not over and any future employer would be lucky to have them at their firm. Saying something like this would remind your employees to keep their confidence up as they hunt for a new job.


Remember the golden rule, “treat others how you want to be treated.”

Additionally, you can go above and beyond by recommending contacts your employee reaches out to to get back on their feet!

You never want to amplify an already touchy subject. However, always remember that both parties may initially find this decision difficult to understand, regardless if it is the best option for both parties in the long run.

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Reasons to Fire an Employee

While each situation of firing an employee may be different, there will be a few strong reasons to let someone go.

Just to reiterate (and look out for these things), many employees show visible distress when fired. They weep at times.

Make arrangements with the employee to come in after work or over the weekend to pick up their personal belongings for their dignity and the sake of your other employees. 

You might even offer to deliver the belongings of the workplace to the employee's residence.

This allows you to remove company records and materials, such as customer files and so on, while also giving employees privacy when picking up their belongings.

If the employee insists on retrieving all her belongings immediately, wait until lunch or a break, and always accompany the employee to her work area. In addition, you wish to limit the employee's contact with other employees on the job site. 

Keeping the above things in mind, below you will find the 9 most common reasons to fire an employee: 

1. Sexual Harassment 

Employees who behave inappropriately toward a coworker in any way, including sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination, are subject to immediate termination.

Employees who don't abide by safety standards or bully their coworkers also violate their contracts.


Sexual harassment is not okay in public, so in the workplace/office. Sexual harassment can also be seen via the internet with provocative images or videos.

Under no circumstances is it okay to flirt with co-workers because you may be caught by senior-level management and could be fired on the spot.

Nobody wants to see your romantic affairs in the workplace – this is especially true if you guys are to start “dating” and somehow end up in a mess.

You have the authority to immediately terminate a member of your team who harasses or discriminates against another worker based on their sexual orientation.

It is always okay to call for help if you feel threatened to do anything that does not receive your consent.

2. Bullying / Violence

Bullying can take many forms, and none are acceptable in the office/workplace. Cyberbullying is becoming a huge issue today, as many individuals who bully others online tend to hide behind anonymous personas.

Forums, text messages, and personal phone calls can all be forms of bullying, especially in the workplace.

If an employer finds that you are constantly bullying others and causing a commotion, then your employer has every right to fire you!

Employees who are violent toward other workers or threaten violence against other workers may also be fired on the spot. 


Employers have the authority to terminate a team member immediately if they threaten or commit an act of violence.

At the end of the day, you need evidence (yes, even if it is cyberbullying) of the continuous bullying instances. Additionally, you mustn't deem playful jokes between co-workers (and ultimately close friends) as “bullying.”

Guys tend to have vulgar humor, and you must mistake this type of banter as bullying if you happen to be listening to the said conversation!

3. Drug and alcohol use on-the-clock

It's one thing if an employee at your company has a glass of wine at the holiday party; that's perfectly OK.


However, when an individual is so intoxicated that they cannot perform their job duties, this brings up another negative issue! 

When employees come to work while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, not only does this reflect negatively on the organization, but it also poses a safety risk. 

In client-facing industries, such as investment banking, you are typically expected to be professional and get things done promptly.

Suppose you are constantly under the influence of substances (i.e., alcohol and/or drugs). In that case, you will be mentally and visually impaired, thus unable to complete any of your work/group of work on time. 

Alcohol is commonly referred to by many as one of (if not) the greatest social lubricants out there – but again, there is a time and place for alcohol (e.g., Christmas / holiday parties at the end of the year).

4. Property Damage and Theft

Employers have every right to terminate an employee if they cause any damage to a company’s property, plant, or equipment (PPE).

Any severe damage (financially or operationally) to the company can result in a layoff.

Why would you want to keep any employee being disrespectful or even inconsiderate to your personal computer or company machines?

PPE is already one of the largest expenditures on the balance sheet under the long-term asset section.

There is no room in the company for employees to cause mayhem and other destruction to these valuable, long-term assets!


Any form of theft (formerly known as theft) is strictly prohibited in the workplace and is certainly against the law!

Even if an employee is to take a few pencils from the supply closet to use at home, that is still technically considered theft.

Workplace theft can be prevented by locking up valuable assets (large stockpiles of cash) in secure safes and vaults.

5. Poor Culture Fit and Job Performance

Although the above reasons are likely to be a reason for firing an employee, poor job performance is the most probable reason for large layoffs.

While no one wants to truly lose their job, given how competitive the financial services industry is, this makes complete sense as not everyone can become a private equity (PE) partner at Apollo or KKR.

Goldman Sachs, often considered (by most) to be the top investment bank on Wall Street, is reportedly laying off 4,000 “low-performing staff” (roughly 8% of its employees) in the early months of 2023.

This reason makes total sense. Sometimes there are newer, younger, and more talented employees that are a better “fit” in a company’s culture.

While company culture is bound to differ from office to office (NYC is different from London and SF), one non-negotiable fact is that you need to be a good team player, hardworking, and willing to learn.

Nobody likes a “yes man,” but at the same time, nobody likes people unwilling to push the boundaries of the work products.


 You need smart people willing to push the team forward in an effective culture and environment.

6. Excessive absence with no communication:

While this point seems self-explanatory, you must be aware of some common instances when this might occur.


Yes, current employees might be under tons of mental and physical stress. Still, it is unacceptable to be uncommunicative with your team and delay work products and responses to senior-level management.

Just because you are having a bad day does not mean that you can take out your frustration on others!

You might have a terrible day for many reasons, but you need to communicate with your team and not just take a leave of absence from work.

Not only are you wasting your potential, but you are also creating more unnecessary work for your co-workers.

You might want to find some sort of outlet where you can manage your stress and anger levels.

Said outlets include meditation, sports, going to the gym, heading outside for a run, journalizing, or simply talking about your struggles with a close friend or family member.

Remember, life's journey is difficult (yet simultaneously rewarding), and no one wants you to go through it alone.

Key Takeaways

  • Firing someone is always easier said than done for many reasons.
  • Many coworkers may feel this is out of emotion, so you NEED to justify your actions and have many instances in which your employee was underperforming.
  • You need to reinforce the notion that they are no longer culturally fit.
  • There are some obvious termination cases, such as violence, theft, and sexual harassment.
  • Communication is key during this unfamiliar and heart-breaking process.
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Researched and authored by Joshua Tobias | LinkedIn

Reviewed and edited by Parul GuptaLinkedIn

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