What's the Best Day to Fire an Employee?

HR Practitioners Discuss this Long Term Debate

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Employment Termination Is Almost Never a Happy Meeting. Glow Images, Inc./Glow/Getty Images

Readers ask questions frequently, so the questions and answers that other readers will find useful or interesting are shared. When is the best day to fire an employee, asked several readers?

Traditionally, the best day to fire an employee was mid-week. This allowed the employee to launch an immediate job search, file an unemployment insurance claim, and set up dates with his or her network, all of which were difficult to do on the weekend.

Some employers always fired employees on Friday because it was convenient for payroll and the company, but not especially friendly for the employee. The fired employee would have all weekend to stew about the company and the undeserved (of course) termination and have little that he or she could move forward on the weekend.

The times have changed, and the world has changed, but some things never change. It's still important to develop a solid case for firing an employee. It's still important to communicate effectively with the employee every step of the way until employment termination is the best solution to performance issues.

The employee deserves blunt communication that progresses in the sense of urgency conveyed. It is unfair and unethical to blindside an employee when his employment is terminated. Perhaps the exact timing is always a surprise, but the reasons should have been discussed over time, at length, and in writing.

How to Fire an Employee

The employee should always know it's coming. Even in the case of layoffs, management should have been communicating the problems and issues the company was experiencing so that employees are not completely blindsided. Performance issues leading to employment termination should always be clearly understood by the employee.

A performance improvement plan (PIP) may even become your last resort communication tool in your efforts to communicate with an employee. Unfortunately, not all organizations use a PIP appropriately and so they have developed a seriously bad image. But, a PIP, used properly, is a strong performance improvement tool.

A PIP is not always in order. For example, in the case of a poorly performing manager with a negative attitude, you may have lost confidence in his or her ability to manage. And, because of their position, the negativity affects too many other employees to wait.

In a second example, you and the employee's mentor have trained and retrained the employee repeatedly over three months and the employee is still unable to perform essential elements of his job. It's time to cut him loose as you already know that he would fail any PIP. Don't torture the employee.

No PIP will fix these performance issues. Sometimes, it's better to just let the employee go even if you have to provide more severance pay.

Firing a person because they are an at will employee leaves a lot to be desired, too, although some employers still do it.

When to Fire an Employee

My recommendation is to fire an employee when the decision has been made that employment termination is necessary.

Preferably, this decision is made mid-week, early in the day on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.

This gives the employee some work hours during the week and she doesn't feel as if she wasted her time coming to work which happens when you fire an employee on Monday.

Even in this connected world, Friday is a bad day to fire an employee, since so many next steps are difficult to take on the weekend. But, an employment termination specialist, one of my readers, responded to my recommendation that statistically, firing an employee on Friday leads to fewer incidents. (So, different experts have different recommendations.)

Avoid incidents and upset coworkers by asking the employee to meet you after hours to pick up their personal items. Obtain all company access keys or equipment, electronics, and company-owned materials before the employee leaves for home.

Use this employment ending checklist for guidance.

Provide a quiet, private space if the employee is upset or crying. As recommended in all of my articles about employment termination, treat the employee with respect and in a dignified manner.

More about Firing Employees