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I'm firing a volatile employee - any good ideas on how best to handle this?

I'm really not looking forward to this.


Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

I am not proud to say that I have terminated individuals for cause and laid off individuals. Interestingly the volatile individuals are better, as you feel less guilt. My recommendation - direct, short and sweet. Be sure that you have someone available to escort the terminated employee off the premises.
Good luck.

Aditya Humad
Title: CFO & VP, Business Development
Company: SpineFrontier, Inc.
(CFO & VP, Business Development, SpineFrontier, Inc.) |

Agree. I had to do several of these before hiring the HR Specialist. But keeping it short and simple is effective. It usually does not come as a surprise to a volatile non-performing employee if it shows in their work and has been discussed even verbally with them few times. Don't believe there is any bad employee, its just a bad fit. We are in a startup, so I just thank them for their help in getting us to this point but it is not a good fit for them to take us to the next level, and they would be more successful somewhere else where they can excel and be happy. This approach tends to work well in being short, upfront, recognize their work and support them as they move on to something else.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

I assume you don't have a professional HR person and the person isn't being blindsided by the firing (i.e. they've been counseled), so I would have all the forms and letters needed prepared, as well as a checklist of what you and they need to do (return of company property, cancel login. Etc.).

Also do it first thing in the morning. Nothing worse thanking someone work the entire day and then dismissing them.

Sara Voight
Title: Controller
Company: Critical Signal Technologies, Inc
(Controller, Critical Signal Technologies, Inc) |

I agree with Regis, short and sweet. Don't try to fill in empty spaces, you get yourself in trouble. In addition to Wayne's suggestion of time of day, I would also stress doing this earlier in the week. Someone going home to a weekend of stewing over an issue without anyone to speak to (Clergy, Counselor, Lawyer) will only fill with anger and rage and might be there to surprise you on Monday morning.

Finally, another important item is that you should not do this alone. Bring a witness. This person does not have to say anything, but is key to confirm that there were no threats by the (past) employer or promises that can come back to haunt you in the future.

Topic Expert
Malak Kazan
Title: VP, Special Projects
Company: ERI Economic Research Institute
(VP, Special Projects, ERI Economic Research Institute) |

I would add, generally you want to minimize the risk of having a disgruntled employee after just an event especially in IT department. It appears that this is a recurring problem, they've been advise to cease/correct behavior, and likely the employee won't be terribly surprised.

Topic Expert
Deborah Godfrey
Title: Budget Administrator, Business Manager, ..
Company: Seeking Employment
(Budget Administrator, Business Manager, Project/Program Manager, Seeking Employment) |

I agree with what each of my colleagues have said. I want to stress that it is very important not to do this alone and to have all your "ducks" in a row so that this process can be done quickly and efficiently (supporting dismissal letter(s), check off lists of items to turn in, separation of termination form, etc). The employee should be escorted immediately off the premises by security.

Susan Scott
Title: HR Manager
Company: Private
(HR Manager, Private) |

Generally speaking, and there are always potential exceptions, in addition to the above I would suggest;

- Do it first thing in the day.
- Be clear that it is effective immediately.
- Jump right in without much of any small talk.
- Don't feel like you have to justify it.
- Ask them if they have any questions.
- Listen completely to whatever they have to say before answering.
- Be sympathetic, but not overly so.
- Give them a specific contact for any post-employment issues.
- End it on as positive a note as possible.
- Shake their hand and sincerely wish them well.

Jeff Taylor
Title: CFO
Company: Communications Co.
(CFO, Communications Co.) |

Have a list of things you need to get from them right there on the table. Going through a list de-personalizes it. It's the list talking, not you :). The list should have each item you want to cover, from last day to severance to things like collecting key cards and laptops. When they come in and you notify them, move right to, "We need to go through this list of items...".

Lyle Newkirk
Title: CFO
Company: Corrigo Incorporated
(CFO, Corrigo Incorporated) |

I agree with all the comments above - do it with another person present, do it quickly and early. Barring an incident that immediately prompts a termination, my suggestion is to do it on a Monday or Tuesday so the employee does not stew about it over a weekend. One other thing - if this person if volatile, the other employees will know this and probably be wondering why you waited so long to fire the person.

Brian Thomas
Title: Controller
Company: Seifert MTM Systems, Inc.
(Controller, Seifert MTM Systems, Inc.) |

Great comments. Depending on how volatile, consider hiring a security officer, or asking the police to attend. Do not put yourselves at a physical risk. For a bit less volatile, choose a co-worker to attend that you know they are comfortable with for that calming effect if necessary. For your list, I have always had their last paycheck(s) ready to hand them. You may have to pay them for the day of firing because some States require a minimum number of hours pay if you ask them to come to work that day.

(Agent, JKS Solutions, Inc.) |

I was in a previous position where an employee had made personal bodily harm threats. We employed an off duty police officer to sit outside the front door in case the termination created a risk for anyone. This might seem to be too much but you have to protect yourself and other employees.

Ted Monohon
Title: VP -Finance / Controller
Company: Fantex
(VP -Finance / Controller, Fantex) |

2 house keeping items that might make it a bit smoother. While you are talking with the employee, have IT disable all access to computer systems. You don't want the person unloading a virus or an email to "all". Also provide the employee a bankers box to put their personal items in so when they can back to their desk (escorted), they can easily carry their belonging.

Good luck. I don't envy you.

Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |


Volatility per se does not seem like grounds for dismissal. So why do you want to fire this person? Figure out the key reasons for dismissal, ensure your facts/proof are solid, and use those reasons/facts only to explain why to this person. Stay away from peripheral issues and you'll avoid arguments/disputes that those factors are not grounds for dismissal.

Are you in an "at will" state? That may cause you to tweak your approach.

Good luck.

Joe Schatz
Title: Director
Company: Medline
(Director, Medline) |

This is tough. Expect the worse and take advice given above.

1. Know why you are firing the person. The official reason, not the various problems and issues and personality difficulties. Don't let the other person take you off topic. This is how I would define short and sweet.
2. Practice/rehearse with a fellow manager if HR is not available to help.
3. Remember, you will feel a great deal of relief when it is done. However, the person you are letting go was just fired. Let them leave with as much dignity as possible. You can't relax that it is over after they are out of the building or preferably at home with a beer and friends.
4. Protect yourself. Conduct the firing with a witness and security if needed. Review with legal counsel if there are other considerations due to race, gender, disability, etc. 30-60 minutes on phone with a lawyer might seem expensive in the short term but it can protect you in how this is handled.
5. Do it as soon as you can and still do it right.

#2 was the hardest for me but helped me the most in a similar scenario years back. I felt awkward doing it but it paid dividends during the actual employee meeting.

Anonymous User
Title: CFO
Company: Local Government Agency
(CFO, Local Government Agency) |

Not to hijack this thread but, I'm interested in knowing how it got this far in the first place.

How long was the person there before the termination decision was made?

Define what you mean by "volatile"? Are we talking physical threats? Verbal outbursts?

What evidence has there been of this volatility?

Topic Expert
Jim Quinlan
Title: CFO, Managing Director
Company: Trinity Group, BlueGold, Genergy, Wellco..
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, Managing Director, Trinity Group, BlueGold, Genergy, Wellcount) |

A successful, wise HR leader told me that it's best done at the end of the day, with the directly superior boss just telling the person then leaving the details to the HR person, who is there as well. Also, he said Thursday end of day is best.

I hope the person can learn and change so that he can get stability in his life.


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