A woman with strawberry blonde curly hair sits at a table with her hands pressed together in front of her and a serious look on her face. Sitting diagonally to the left of her, facing away from the viewer, is a dark-haired man. In the background is a set of shelves holding several piles of books and a potted plant.
Even when you're firing an employee, try to end the conversation on good terms. Avoiding hostility will help keep communication lines open for future opportunities. — Getty Images/fizkes

Whether it’s due to underperformance or another reason, firing an employee is a difficult thing for an entrepreneur to do. Doing so in a way that feels empathetic and compassionate to the person who is being dismissed is even harder.

Here are six tips for firing an employee with compassion.

Communicate issues before deciding to fire them

Don’t fire an employee the first time they fail to meet expectations. Give them a chance to clean up their act and improve their performance before you force them out. Many managers prefer to wait for a catastrophic, “fire-worthy” moment to get rid of an employee, but this practice will ultimately lead to unnecessary tension that will negatively impact the team at large.

Providing meaningful feedback is the best way to help an employee improve their performance. It’s generally cheaper to train an employee than to fire and replace them; invest in employees and make them aware of their job status so they have an opportunity to address their work performance issues and make a change.

[Read more: Firing an Employee? Here's What to Do Next]

Prepare for the meeting

Before you go into a meeting to fire an employee, prepare what you are going to say to them and how you will say it. You should have a firm understanding of how you will communicate the termination, along with the reasons and documentation as to why.

Address the employee’s failures constructively and compassionately while acknowledging the role you played in those failures — whether it was by not providing enough support to help in their role or putting them in an ill-suited position that didn’t fit their skill sets. Ask the employee what you could have done to better support them so that you can understand how to better care for employees in this role in the future.

Don’t make it personal

When describing the shortcomings that brought you to the decision to fire the employee, don’t point fingers or place blame on anyone in particular. Instead, state the facts and focus on the outcome you hope to achieve by letting the employee go.

Don’t fire an employee the first time they fail to meet expectations.

Reframing how you communicate the decision can help soften the blow. For instance, rather than saying the employee isn’t good at their job, express that you are looking for somebody whose skill sets are more in line with the role. Express your hope that the employee finds a role that better suits their skill set and allows them to thrive and succeed, and likewise for the company’s outlook on what they want in a candidate for the now-vacant role.

Practice empathy

Being empathetic, expressing compassion rather than simply reciting a script, and listening to the employee’s concerns while firing them are important for both the employee’s well-being and the overall company’s morale. When firing an employee, be a human being and take time to hear their concerns — you may learn about deficits in your company that could prevent you from having to fire more employees in the future.

[Read more: Firing an Employee? Here's How to Do It Right]

Discuss severance

Before firing a staff member, consider how your company will help them as they search for a new job. This may come in the form of a generous severance package, which should include financial compensation, a plan for references if applicable, a communication plan, outplacement assistance, and information regarding vacation pay, earned benefits, and continuing health insurance, along with a legal release. A severance package can also help protect the company from a lawsuit, as an employee must waive their right to litigation to accept it.

[Read more: Can Fired Employees Collect Unemployment?]

Attempt to part on good terms

Try to end the conversation on a positive note without any hostility on your end. Make it clear to the employee that they were just not the right fit for their role and that the company would like to go in a different direction.

If you’re both willing, maintain communication via social media and networking channels. While you may have felt it was best to part ways in your company, that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to communicate with them and be there as a reference or professional mentor down the line.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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