How to Fire and Be Fired

Donald Trump’s TV show, “The Apprentice,” is a reality business show that pits eager entrepreneurs against each other to win the respect of Donald Trump and to hopefully avoid those two dreaded words … “Your Fired.”

Today, people are experiencing their own version of Mr. Trump’s board room; being fired drums up an emotional reaction that can be debilitating as well as detrimental to moving forward and bouncing back. There are some valuable tips and lessons in being terminated; while this is not a situation any of us want to be in it is a situation more and more of us find ourselves facing with company cut backs and downsizing.

Keep your cool: If you had no idea this was coming, your mind must be reeling and thinking a cohesive thought or point is nearly impossible. Do not react and do not agree to sign anything (take it home and read it with a clear mind), just listen and politely ask for an exit interview with your Human Resources Director. A violent reaction or nasty confrontation will get you nowhere.

Know your rights: Getting terminated is different in every state. However, in most states employees are “at-will,” which means they can be fired without cause. This being said, if you choose to dispute the termination they need to show reasons why your position was eliminated. You might want to consult a labor attorney to know your rights and options.

Pick up the pieces: Lingering and lamenting after a termination is normal but you need to pick yourself up and move forward. Find out about unemployment insurance; do you qualify? How about your health insurance, when will they offer you Cobra? How much money do you have saved as a buffer? Find out of you can leave your former employee with a reference. Many times layoffs are because of downsizing and companies will be glad to give you a recommendation.

If you are the person or upper management who is responsible for terminating an employee there are some very real options to consider:

Have a conversation: Often times when employment is not working out you can have a calm private discussion with an employee and steer them towards resigning. This is not about blaming and pointing fingers on who did what or why this happened. This is about moving forward in the best interest of the employee and your company.

Document everything: It is important before you decide to terminate an employee that you have taken the correct precautions to document the employee’s work performance, their actions that lead to the termination, company policy and past altercations or disciplinary issues. Even in “at-will” states, the employer should have the proper documentation before a termination is acted upon.

Respect: Always treat the employee with respect and compassion. A termination is devastating, embarrassing and frightening, especially when the lay off has taken them off guard. Always think how you would like to be treated and proceed from there.

Keep it positive: Nobody comes to work and says “This is the job/company I’m going to take down!” Business is personal and oftentimes employees take their personal lives, problems and idiosyncrasies into work with them.

Personality clashes, work ethics and poor job performance are never done on purpose. Remember the employee may have personal stresses that are just too hard to juggle. Try to focus on something that the employee does well; give them something to hold on to that is positive when they leave. You may not realize this but your conversation will be played over and over inside their head so tearing them apart will not serve any good purpose.

Coordinate with your associates: This is the one meeting you will need to have all the answers. Make sure you research the company policy, converse with your attorney, and notify the IT department so they can disable passwords, e-mail addresses and pass keys. While you hope things go smoothly, you need to be prepared for an emotional outburst or retaliation towards the company.

Benefits: Employees will need to know their options. They are taking in a lot of information while processing their emotions at the same time. Make sure you have explained the benefits policy for their health, vacation and any company remission program of which they may be a part. Have a packet of the company policies they can also read after they leave. This will give them a chance to process and understand where to go from here.

“It can be liberating to get fired because you realize the world doesn’t end. There are other ways to make money, better jobs.” –Ron Livingston

Alisa Weinstein is a certified coach, business executive, and entrepreneur. As owner of Coaching Element, She supports other entrepreneurs to create businesses starting with focus, vision and, action. She serves clients through individual and group coaching, seminars, and public speaking. For more information, please visit Or e-mail


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