Getting fired is hard. Firing someone is just as hard, even if you are unhappy with that employee’s performance. Ending an employment relationship happens for many reasons, from poor performance to fit to business restructuring. Employees leave for similar reasons – they don’t think the company is living up to its promises, they’re experiencing feelings of isolation or a new job has come up.

Ending an employment relationship does not need not be a polarizing, bipartisan, us-versus-them scenario. While some extreme situations may arise (such fraud or competing against the employer), the majority of the time both parties kinda know they should go their separate ways. Both are a bit unhappy, both are either remembering the long-ago honeymoon or having regrets about ever entering into this relationship – and both are unsure how to get out.

For many tech startups, the termination may involve a long-term friendship, a near-founder type role, or an early commitment to this relationship lasting forever.

Our experience with most employers, especially with startups, owner-operators, and small businesses, is that terminations are just as painful and emotional for the person having to trigger the termination. 

5 Tips to Terminate without Tears

Here are 5 tips to terminate without tears:

  1. Be empathetic: Put yourself in the employee’s shoes and avoid humiliating theatre. This will help lower the employee’s temperature to accept the termination package sooner.
  2. Be rational: Acknowledge the range of emotions everyone is feeling, but rise above it and think about how you each will feel 3 months from now. Don’t do anything you’ll regret when the dust settles.
  3. Have contractual certainty: Terminations are waaaaaaaay easier if there is a reasonable, readable, enforceable termination provision the parties can rely on. Do it for your own peace of mind, as well as the math of eliminating the battle over how much notice to give. Have a termination letter and release ready to go at the termination meeting that reflects the contractual entitlements.
  4. Context matters: When enforcing the contract termination provisions that you hopefully have in place, contextualize those terms to the circumstances surrounding the termination. Do the original termination terms still make sense? Do you have an additional business risk to cover off? Do you have reason to not trust the employee with your digital data? You can’t go below the contract terms, but you may want to give more notice than the basic amounts in the contract to force a post-employment restriction.
  5. Math matters even more: As much as you may be plugging your nose to pay out a termination notice, remember that the excessive costs and polarizing results of litigation will smell worse. Usually being a bit more generous than you want to be upfront will result in better business math longterm. 

If you are looking for a modern legal strategy for your terminations, get in touch.