Date ArticleType
4/9/2019 Insights

How to Terminate Employees and Leave Their Dignity Intact

Lady Packing her Things

How to Terminate Employees and Leave Their Dignity Intact

You never hire an employee with the expectation that you’ll one day have to let them go for poor performance or behavioral issues. But, unfortunately, if you manage a practice for any substantial amount of time there’s little doubt that the day will come when you’re forced to fire your first employee.

Since business owners and managers also happen to be human beings (for the most part, anyway), most dread the inevitable confrontation associated with letting an employee know that their time in their present position has come to an end.

Firing someone is an unpleasant experience, certainly. But, if done carefully and with concern for the general well-being of the person being fired, it doesn’t have to be an emotional drain on you, your office manager, or the rest of your team. Further, ensuring that you’ve followed proper protocol during the process can help you to protect your business while preserving that employee’s dignity.

Be Quick

Be prepared for the termination ahead of time -- pick out and prepare a private space for the conversation, inform and prepare a witness to join you during the process, and be ready to handle the termination process either first thing in the morning before patients begin to show up or at the end of a workday.

Once you’ve got the employee in the room with you and your witness, explain to them that they are being let go and why in as few words as possible. If you’ve done your due diligence with respect to addressing the issue in the past and giving the employee an opportunity to rectify the problem, the final result should come as no surprise. Work to resolve the termination in a matter of about ten minutes.

Be Professional

Allow the employee to vent their frustration, but don’t respond to it. Acknowledge the difficulty of the situation, but don’t back down from your resolve.

Let the employee know that the matter is closed and wish them luck moving forward. Don’t offer a letter of recommendation to soften the blow, as this could be used against you if the employee later tries to contend that they were fired illegally for any reason.

Have the employee’s last check ready for them along with an exit interview form and a self-addressed, stamped envelope and hand the package over to the employee at the conclusion of your meeting. Then allow them to gather their things and escort them out of the building.

Be wary that a fired employee may want to lash out. Lock down your office computers so that they can’t delete any patient appointments or otherwise corrupt your office data on the way out. The last thing you’ll want is to be forced to physically restrain someone who is trying to make a scene or hurt your practice as their final act of vengeance.

If you have access to security, let them know to be on call during the conversation if they are needed and, if it comes to it, inform your employee that you are ready and willing to call the police if you feel threatened.

Be Compassionate (But Not Apologetic)

Choose your language carefully and don’t sugar coat the situation to spare your former employee’s feelings. Apologizing, implying that the termination wasn’t the employee’s “fault,” deflecting the blame to another employee, or calling the termination a “layoff” when it was not can leave you vulnerable to potential legal claims later on.

If the employee becomes emotional, give them time to compose themselves before ushering them out the door, but don’t back-peddle because you feel guilty or sympathetic. And when the rest of your team asks about it later, limit yourself to acknowledging that the employee is no longer employed by your business without going into (potentially private) details.

Request and Listen to Feedback

As mentioned above, you will want to provide your former employee with an exit interview form and a self-addressed, stamped envelope. This will help you demonstrate that you’ve made an effort to address any concerns the employee may have and will work to show that your actions as an employer are fair and consistent.

If an employee raises a legitimate concern during your meeting or on their exit interview form, take it seriously, investigate accordingly, and document your findings. Employees who are on their way out may see this as an opportunity to reveal legitimate issues in your office. And, if nothing else, your effort to give any complaints their due diligence will help to bolster your case that your employment practices tend to be consistent and free from bias.

Need help documenting employee transitions? Download CEDR's FREE Employee Exit Packet, including a complimentary Exit Interview Form.

Paul Edwards
Paul Edwards is the CEO and Co-Founder of CEDR HR Solutions (, which provides individually customized employee handbooks and HR solutions to dental offices of all sizes across the United States. He has over 20 years' experience as a manager and owner, and specializes in helping dental offices solve employee issues. Paul is a featured writer for The Profitable Dentist, Dentaltown, and AADOM, and speaks at employment education seminars, conferences, and CE courses across the country. He can be reached at 602-476-1418 or [email protected]