One of the realities of being an employer is that you will end up firing people. There’s no way to avoid it, unless you are extraordinarily good at hiring exceptional folks.

Once you know that it’s necessary to let someone go, it’s best to do it sooner rather than later.  That way, you can at least stop beating yourself up about it. But how do you cut ties in an efficient and professional manner?

First off, check with your lawyer about everything that I am suggesting. Your state’s laws are likely different from those in California in 2007, which serve as the basis for my suggestions.

Get started by making a list of everything the employee has that you want back upon his or her departure. Also make a list of everything that you will be giving back to the employee. In other words, systemize the actions needed. Turn it into a checklist. Remember to include any electronic communication devices and passwords. When the employee has been let go, put the filled out checklist in his file.

Have some kind of severance check ready. If the employee was a completely rotten person, give him one week. If he just couldn’t perform up to snuff, give him two weeks. Doing this makes it easier for everyone.

Preferably, the actual firing meeting should occur early in the week and early in the workday. Ask the employee to sit with you some place where you won’t be disturbed.  If there are two owners, both of you should be at the meeting. Remember, this is a business meeting and you are doing what is best for the company and its clients. Turn off all cellphones—it’s best to be completely undistracted.

Say to the employee something like, "We have decided that it is best for our company and you that you work somewhere else." If the employee asks why, repeat the same thing.  Do not offer any explanation regarding your decision. Whatever you say could come back to bite you in the future.

Once the employee is calm/rational, do the transfer of information and items per your checklist.  Walk him to the door. Shake his hand. Watch him drive away. Depending on how you feel about the employee, consider getting the office's locks changed.

Finally, reach out to each of your clients who had contact with the employee and let them know that you have made the change. Be prepared to learn about things that you had no idea were going on. 

Reading the above sounds so simple, but I know that terminating an employee is often hard.  Know that the more experience you get in letting go of those who should not be a part of your company, the easier it gets. Remember, it’s a business relationship, not a personal one. 

Of course, one solution to having to fire someone is to not have any employees. But then getting the work done would be a lot harder, wouldn’t it?