Keep it short and direct. "It's human nature to try to fill the uncomfortable silence with words. Don't! Plan what needs to be said and stick to it," says Van Vreede. Once the meeting begins, you want to have the facts with you on why the person is being let go. This is a real living, breathing human in front of you. Look the person in the eyes and simply come out and say it. "Be very specific in telling them the reason," says Phillips.
Then give it a moment or two for the words to settle. While some employees may have seen it coming, as in the case of performance issues, others might feel blind-sided by a down-sizing or reorganization. In any case it's completely understandable that the employee being let go will need some time to wrap their head around the situation.
Understand and be prepared or the person to be upset or argumentative and do your best not be drawn into a debate. Saying the wrong thing in the heat of the moment could cost both you and the company down the road. The decision has been made and no amount of talking or arguing will change the fact. Let them vent for a moment if necessary.
Permissions, Privileges and Email
Permissions, privileges and email should be shutoff as the meeting commences or shortly thereafter. "Whenever possible you have to get IT in the loop but you have to be careful with confidentiality issues. So when the employee gets back to their desk they can't do any damage," says Phillips. Be diligent here a miscommunication could alert a mindful person of the impending news. "I've heard stories about folks that figured out they were going to get fired when they were unable to access anything in their system upon arriving at work," says Van Vreede. This could cause unforeseen problems, for example, a sales person who surmises he is being fired today may go and copy your customer contact list.
Best Time to Fire Someone
There is no best time to fire someone. Some say Friday to eliminate risk to the company and some say Monday so the person can jumpstart their job search. The only advice offered here is; don't hesitate, if you'd made the decision to let someone go do it as soon as is possible.
Devices, Software and Data
After the meeting you also need to account for and collect any devices this person may have been issued including but not limited to security badges, mobile phones, tablet, laptops, proprietary software or data. In many cases, severance package is contingent on these items being returned.
Close Strong and Respectfully
When the time has come to finish up, again look them in the eyes, shake their hands and wish them luck. Throughout this whole process empathy is key. How would you like to be treated if the roles were reversed? "I always like to thank the employee even though it didn't work out. They've come to work every day and hopefully done their best. We do offer to give them a reference. We want them to get another job and we'll do what we can to help them, says Phillips.
Read more about careers in CIO's Careers Drilldown.
This story, "How to fire an employee the right way" was originally published by CIO.