Saying Goodbye Gracefully

Anatomy of a Dismissal Letter: Saying Goodbye Gracefully

There are few situations that are more fraught with difficulty than having to dismiss an employee. Companies prefer to move quickly to prevent a disgruntled employee from poisoning the atmosphere. Still, dismissals should be humane and the cause should be made clear.

“An abrupt firing should never happen over poor performance, absenteeism, or failure to meet contractual obligations,” says human resources expert Susan M. Heathfield. A good manager, she says, should always “escalate up” with verbal and written warnings.

Make sure to document specifically how your employee isn’t fulfilling her job requirements. Meet to review the expectations for the job and the employee’s shortcomings––even issuing a frank warning––before you take action. Be fair and open. Employment law varies from state to state, and you’ll want to be sure that your process is within legal bounds.

If firing becomes the only reasonable option, craft a formal document on company letterhead and always maintain a respectful tone.

In the dismissal letter:

  • Include a reminder of the terms and conditions of employment.
  • Explain that the company tried in every way to help the employee meet expectations.
  • State that the substandard performance leaves you with no choice but to terminate her employment.
  • Explain what property must be returned, and to where, and any include any other details.
  • Furnish information concerning final paychecks, termination of health coverage or benefits, and severance pay.

After sharing the document with HR or legal counsel, sign it and provide an area for the employee’s signature. The letter should be delivered in person. Then, either you or an HR representative should set a time to speak with the employee.





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