What to Do After Firing an Employee

Employers dismiss their staff for a variety of reasons: from company restructure or downsizing to underperformance, toxic work attitudes, and even crimes.

The task of letting go of employees is difficult but half of the process is considered finished once you meet with them to break the news, then explain your reason for terminating them.

In this article, we cover the other half that consist of your responsibilities and obligations as an employer after letting go of an employee.

Follow Your Company’s Termination Checklist

The team leader or manager should work with the human resource department in accomplishing your company’s employee termination list. Make sure to check the following points:

Company property

Ideally, a human resource representative should have collected the terminated employee’s identification card, office keys, laptop, cellphone, and other company items after the termination/exit interview.

Besides retrieving physical company property, HR or IT must ensure to cut off the employee’s access to company electronic systems: passwords to company intranet, email accounts, customer contact forums, and so on.

Disable access some time before you inform the workers about your decision to let them go or during the termination meeting.

Doing so will protect the organization’s systems from any possible negative reactions from the person fired. They may risk stealing classified company data or messing with computer records due to feelings of anger, bitterness or betrayal after the termination.


It is best to give terminated employees their final paycheck on their last day so that you don’t have to mail it or ask the worker to pick it up later.

Their last paycheck must include their regular salary from the most recent pay period as well as bonus, accrued vacation, and any commission pay.

However, the company can withhold issuing their terminated employees’ final pay if they owe them money, say from a salary agreement. Instruct the employee to pay any remaining amount if what they owe is more than their last paycheck.

You can check the websites of the US Department of Labor or state labor offices for more information on issuing your workers’ final paycheck.

Keep Company Records Updated

Make sure that you delete the fired employee from your payroll system.

However, to comply with Fair Labor Standards Act and Internal Revenue Service requirements respectively, keep their payroll records on file for at least three years and employee tax records for at least four years.

These records are important in helping prove or disprove that discrimination occurred during an individual’s termination.

Keep Employee Morale Up

After letting go of the employee, assign one or several persons to temporarily do the tasks of the terminated worker.

Meet your staff as soon as possible to allay any fears about job security and do the following:

Revisit your company’s vision and long-term goals.

Take this time re-establish how your organization contributes to your field.

Explain why you terminated the employee.

Choose which details to share and be mindful of information to protect the privacy of the terminated worker. Allow remaining employees to speak out and air any concerns or questions.

Appreciate the team for their ongoing work.

Praise your top performers and their specific contributions to the team and the organization. You can also ask your employees how you can better support them.

Tell your team about “what’s next.”

Share or restate recently achieved goals and keep your personnel focused on the company’s future by presenting a “going forward” plan.

Plan your response to any negative feedback.

Manage your online reputation after conducting any layoffs by checking for reviews on Glassdoor, Indeed, and other job sites. Request your retained staff for a heads up if they spot adverse or questionable online content.

Seek help from your marketing team about when and how to respond to any negative posts.

Have fun.

Consider lightening the mood in the workplace by bringing free morning coffee or breakfast. Another idea is to go out for lunch, organize a happy hour or hold team-building activities.

Find ways to spend time with your personnel outside the workplace setting to foster camaraderie amid an otherwise tough time.

Prevent Acts of Violence

Though it may sound extreme, experts in corporate security advise employers to conduct background checks on their workers for signs of security risk before they decide to terminate them.

For example, companies were reminded about assessments after the shooting at Illinois-based valve maker Henry Pratt Co. on February 15.

Five people were shot when Gary Martin opened fire at the company warehouse after learning about his termination for a safety violation that day. Before the incident, he already spoke with colleagues about worries that he might be fired for that kind of offence. He proceeded to make threats to kill people if that happened.

An employee’s termination is unfortunately considered one of the reasons contributing to workplace violence today. Supervisors, the human resource department, and company security must be trained in handling workplace violence in the event something extreme occurred.

The following conditions may be reasons to consider security measures when firing certain employees:

  • They have a history of violence or threats of violence.
  • They have a record of filing complaints and lawsuits (a sign among visibly non-violent workers).
  • They expressed claims in the past that their colleagues are “out to get them.”
  • They are under severe financial pressures, such as foreclosure.

If the employee to be terminated is a perceived security risk, experts recommend the following actions:

1. Hire an off-duty officer

Hire an off-duty officer to be present during the termination meeting and seek help from local law enforcement authorities. Steve Albrecht, author of workplace violence book Ticking Bombs, discourages employers from outright assigning an armed officer in the room where the meeting will be held because it raises the “emotional temperature” of the place.

If the worker made threats of violence in the past, have a team of security professionals in plain clothes available that day. They should remain onsite to ensure the employee doesn’t come back after the termination meeting with possibly violent intent.

2. Notify Staff Immediately

Employees should be notified immediately instead of going through a process of several days.

3. Keep the Termination Meeting Brief

Keep the termination meeting brief, preferably not over 15 minutes. The written explanation of severance benefits or other assistance programs, outplacement services, or counseling and contact information should all be presented during the termination meeting.

4. Closely Observe

On the day you’ve set the termination meeting, carefully observe if the employee is bringing a firearm in the office or workplace.

5. Don’t Allow Breaks During the Meeting

Don’t allow any breaks during the termination meeting to prevent the possibility that workers retrieve a firearm while outside the room.

6. Stay Alert After the Termination.

Albrecht said that termination violence sometimes occurs long after the day employees were fired, from within two weeks up to two years, especially if the worker hasn’t found a new job yet.

He advises supervisors to listen for any “leaks”; ex-employees usually confide with someone else if they are plotting any attacks.

Welcome a Fresh Start

Managers can feel guilt after letting go of an employee. While this is natural, try not to dwell on these thoughts. Pocket Mentor founder Caren Merrick gives the assurance that a manager’s earliest impressions are generally correct, so they shouldn’t second-guess termination decisions.

Although painful for the affected party, termination will give them an opportunity to take stock of their lives and be accountable for their actions and beliefs.

In the meantime, allow yourself a new start with your team that has remained by reminding them that you are all in a winning team with an inspiring mission.