Chapter 8

The Beginner’s Guide to Building a Remote Team
Chapter 8: How to Fire Remote Employees

Firing an employee is always difficult. Having remote employees doesn’t make it any easier. While careful hiring can limit the number of times you need to let an employee go, it’s bound to happen sooner or later.

How to Do It

As soon you know you need to fire someone, do it right away. The longer you wait, the worse it will be for everyone. Make the conversation brief and short. Now is not the time to be chummy. As you’re telling your employee, be respectful of how they’re feeling. You can do this by being calm but assertive.

Make Sure You’re Prepared

With some careful preparation, you can make this meeting as smooth and pleasant as possible for both you and your employee. Before going in, there are a few things to do:

  1. Clarify the reason why they are being fired.
  2. Determine what their last day will be.
  3. Determine what their final deliverables will be.
  4. Determine if they will be receiving a severance package.

One you’ve done that, you’re ready to write a written statement which explains why the employee is being fired. You should also spend some time practising to make sure you’re comfortable.

Do It Real Time Through Video Chat

One of the biggest challenges of firing a remote employee is not being able to do it in person. If they live within a reasonable distance, plan to meet in person. If you don’t have an office of your own, do not do it public. Find a private location where you won’t be disturbed.

If you can’t do it in person, at least do it by live video chat so you can have real-time a conversation. You may also want to record the conversation just in case you don’t want to be misquoted down the road. Make sure you followup with an email that outlines everything discussed. It’s good to have written documentation.

It Should Not Be a Surprise

Any performance issues should have been well documented already. This should not be the first time they are hearing about problems. If you are laying them off because of financial reasons, give them reasonable notice. This is likely covered in your employment agreement.

Be Prepared to Answer Their Questions

You employee will likely have some questions. Be prepared to answer them. Some common questions include:

  • Can you give me and example of what I did wrong?
  • Will I get a reference from you?
  • Are you going to tell the other employees that I’ve been fired?
  • Is there anything I can do to keep my job?
  • Will I get a severance package?

Do you best to answers these and other questions directly without going into too much detail. They are likely going through the five stages of lose and now is not the time to get into deep discussion. They may want to argue with you so don’t want to get cornered. Encourage a brief conversation so that they can leave and take the time to process what happened.

Give Them an Opportunity to Save Face

Getting fired is embarrassing. Be sensitive to how your employee feels. One thing you can do to help them through this embarrassment is give them the opportunity to save face. Allow them to tell their or coworkers before you do—especially if they’re a manager. And never discuss their reasons for leaving with any non-managerial employees. It’s not important and it looks unprofessional.

Help Them Transition

Unless your employee did something awful, help them through this transition. The relationship doesn’t instantly end. Part of being respectful and responsible is not kicking them to the curb. If you can see some good qualities in them or the work they do, offer to be a reference. If you don’t feel comfortable endorsing them, at least offer to confirm they worked for your company and the projects they worked on. If you have some valuable advice, share that as well. Perhaps this position just wasn’t the right fit. Just don’t come across as condescending.

With a little bit of thoughtful planning, you can make the best of the situation. It’s never fun, but in the long run, it will be better for you and your employee.

To help you prepare for this situation, we’ve created a downloadable script:

Bonus Chapter: Tools to Manage Your Remote Team ⟶

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