How to Fire an Employee

It is important to recognize that no employee ever gets fired because of financial reasons. Management will pretend that the reason for termination is costs, but this is never the case. If costs are truly an issue, a whole division or multiple employees are let go or their work is outsourced. Management consultants are famous for finding places where work can be outsourced and whole sections of workers can be let go. But that is not the subject of this memorandum. The important point to remember is that a single employee is never fired for financial reasons.

The reasons why a single employee gets the axe is always to please upper management. Someone’s brother in law needs a job. The employee isn’t getting along with others. S/he presents a threat to his immediate supervisor. No one is indispensable–that’s the idea. But after a few confabs permission is eventually given. Whatever the problem is, getting rid of the person perceived to be the problem is usually seen as the solution.

Despite the fact that Human Relations departments study management theory and should know the proper way to fire an employee, they rarely know how to do so.

Transfer Instead of Dismissal

One popular technique for removing employees is not to remove them at all but simply to make their lives so insufferable they resign. This does not mean taking away silly privileges–parking spaces, office with a view–which ultimately cost nothing and mean little. Remember–no single employee is ever let go for financial reasons. The goal is to remove the problem.

One quick way of getting rid of an employee is simply to transfer him to another office in another city. This is a tempting option but in the long run, inadequate. The sending office may retain residual responsibility for the transferring employee. The goal, after all, was to never hear from him again. If the company is big enough, this might be an option.

The downside is that the transferee remains within the organization where he can cause problems. He will soon come to learn who caused his transfer, whether a manager or a colleague, and that person will be marked for trouble, for revenge. Having a troublemaker within the organization can come back and do great damage.


Temporary transfers, otherwise known as TDY, is the key solution to getting rid of an employee. The process usually takes a few months before the employee resigns on his own accord. Some contracts make it impossible to transfer employees permanently without the employee’s consent. Other restrictions may limit the time an employee may be sent away on temporary duty–these are usually limited to thirty day periods. But there is no limit on thirty day periods interrupted by a week or two.

The soon-to-be-ex-employee should be sent to an inconvenient place with as few creature comforts nearby as possible. Resort cities are out of the question. The fact that the company has no establishment in the city the STBEE is sent to doesn’t matter. There’s really no reason for him to be there anyway. Make the employee pay for his own room and lodging with a promise to reimburse–on your own sweet time. After a few months, the STBEE will be suffering due to all the cash he has laid out–money that won’t be reimbursed in the immediate future.

Rotating the transferee among an ever-changing list of cities is a good idea so he doesn’t get too comfortable during his travels. Cities that are considered hardship posts are a good choice. Consider foreign travel to occasional war zones. After a few months of this treatment, the STBEE will get the message the resign.

Letting rumors about a possible cash bonus for resigning may be just the incentive the employee needs to resign.

How to Fire

There is no guarantee that a technique that has worked in the past will always work in the future. Sometimes a more traditional approach is called for. Still, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about the termination.

Day of the Week

This is a small point, but an important one. Too many employers fire employees on a Friday. This is never a good idea. Even though the employee may have read the signs to see the planets aligning against him, his firing will always come as a shock.

Such a person has the whole weekend to mope and be morose and get drunk and maybe get a gun to plot a return to the office to share his pain. Don’t let this happen. Instead, fire an employee first thing Monday morning. He can start looking for a new job the next business day. His work contacts at other companies will be in the office–he can reach them immediately. One of them might even offer him a job. He won’t have a whole weekend to stew in his pity party juices. He won’t even begin to start thinking of getting a gun and sharing his pain.

Never fire an employee on a Friday.

Companies that have a working-class workforce often pay their employees on Monday for roughly the same reasons. The families complain when their workers drink large portions of their paycheck over the weekend. This won’t happen when employees are paid on a Monday.


Outplacement was an HR fad during the 1980’s but these days has fallen out of favor. There used to be agencies that specialized in employee outplacement, but no longer. Making a few calls on behalf of the terminated employee will nevertheless soften the blow and deflect responsibility for the firing.

If the employee truly is a troublemaker, a smart move is to place him with a competitor. Where but with a competitor is a better destination for a troublesome employee?