How to Fire an Incompetent Employee


To protect yourself and your company, proper groundwork must be laid before firing an incompetent employee. Doing this allows you to show that proper steps and care were taken with the employee before it reached the point of needing to fire him. Typically, supervisors or managers are the only staff members with the authority to fire an employee. In some instances, approval is required from a higher-up before the employee can be let go.

Browse through the employee manual for your company. Typically, this manual spells out the disciplinary actions that take place before an employee is fired. Because employees usually read the manual when hired, it is important to follow the documented procedure before firing anyone.

Evaluate the employee’s performance at regular intervals. During the evaluation, give the employee an honest assessment to allow her to come up to standards. Clearly explain what the problem is and what you are looking for from the employee. Such evaluations should be documented because they can serve as legal evidence for a valid firing.

Show your evidence or reasons for firing the employee to a member of the human resources department or a higher member of management. This allows you the chance for an objective outsider to consider the evidence or reasons and let you know if you are just in your desire to fire the incompetent employee.

Request that a member of human resources or higher management sit in with you on the day you fire the employee. This is important so that you have a witness to the firing, should you later need one for legal reasons.

Tell the employee that he is fired and give a brief explanation why. While you should be polite, do not lie or give a vague reason for the firing. Choose your words carefully because telling the employee he is “laid off” could give the impression that it is due to lack of work or that there is a chance of getting hired back at a later date.

Give the employee a chance to resign instead of being fired, once you let the employee know that you plan to fire her. This could be attractive to the employee because it will leave a clean work history. It will also limit the employee in filing for unemployment benefits, which is good for the company.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the employee is violent, you can direct him to go home for the day and report back to you the next morning. Then you can fire the employee the following day, when he is calmer.

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