Management of employees can be the most challenging with rollercoaster emotions. That’s especially true in employee terminations.

Employee terminations are the most stressful and legally treacherous events for any human resources professional or manager.

Naturally, if you find it necessary to terminate employees, you must be legally and morally prepared with a paper trail that show your documentation in your evaluations of them.

The five most-common reasons to fire employees:

  1. Lack of productivity
  2. Toxic behavior
  3. Cannot cope with change
  4. No call or no show
  5. Customer and supplier complaints

But what about high performers who decline in their work?

Don’t be too lenient with talented employees with a history of strong performance but who decline in their work. Document every event in any downtrend of performance.

Inevitably, many terminated employees will file claims accusing you of discrimination.

So, it’s vital to be mindful of your biases when you assess the performance of employees. Don’t be misled about your high-performing employees. Sometimes, their performance decline.

If they are given excellent reviews but there are is no documentation of their declining performances, you risk legal trouble.

To reiterate, when a previously high-performing worker starts to go south, you must avoid playing favorites. Be very careful to document the person’s waning performance.

Their past excellent reviews don’t mean you’re stuck. The person is not impervious to scrutiny and unassailable.

Before terminations, ask yourself three questions

  1. “Am I following all applicable laws?”

You should be diligent in your human resources paper trail. That should include progressive discipline and counseling.

Be careful in what you do, say and write. If there’s any doubt, check with an expert. Actually, it’s a good idea to do it anyway.

  1. “Am I acting on facts and irrefutable information?”

Take and use copious notes.

Employees are entitled to know the answers to three questions:

  • What’s expected of me?
  • How am I doing?
  • What’s in it for me?

Don’t allow your behavior to become less than polite.

  1. “Am I fair and compassionate?”

Follow the Golden Rule. Treat employees as you would like to be treated in a termination by a world-class employer.

If an employee is not expecting to be terminated, remember the fault does not entirely lie with the worker. It’s your fault. 


To avoid appearances of discrimination or favoritism, you must be 100 percent objective with all your employees. Show how each of their performances are improving or declining.

All too often with older employees, companies face accusations of age discrimination.

Take notice the very day an employee starts missing goals or otherwise performs poorly. Don’t risk firing a worker after giving a sudden negative review after years of excellent reviews.

Should you find it necessary to terminate an employee, be prepared:

Present evidence that you had discussed errors and poor productivity, requested improvements in the person’s performance, and to conform with your company’s objectives and plans.

Yes, it’s kosher to terminate employees who fail to adjust in this Digital Age.

You can rest assured that courts don’t automatically condemn your decisions in human resources.

What judges, juries and the Equal Employee Opportunity Commission want is to see is your documentation that you’ve discussed performance issues with your employees.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are relevant articles:

Human Resources: 12 Errors to Avoid in Evaluations — How should you properly evaluate employees? Make sure you are careful to avoid errors in evaluations. Naturally, you want to praise good performance and discourage bad. What are the best ways? Here’s how to avoid making those classic mistakes.

For Best HR Performance Reviews, 10 Sample Goal Phrases — A well-written set of performance goals work to motivate employees and help them to focus better on their responsibilities. They must be written with the right phrasing so they inspire performance and don’t invite costly lawsuits.

10 Best Practices for an Online Employee Handbook — Companies that don’t convert their employee handbooks into electronic documents are missing noteworthy opportunities in human resources. Conversely, businesses that switch to a digital format accomplish at least five HR goals.

Management: 7 Tips for Success if You Must Layoff Employees — Companies typically make two short-sighted errors in a business downturn. They slash the workforce and marketing investments. To the contrary, it’s important to place a maximum value on your human capital and avoid layoffs, and to expand marketing.

Avoid EEOC Legal Hassles over Unpaid Leave Requirements — You might want to review your current human resource policies. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has continued to push employers on unpaid leave under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

10 Tips on Responding to EEOC Complaints — Despite all the court cases, warnings and complaints filed at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a study shows big companies are guilty of favoritism in their promotion practices. If you’re so accused, here’s what to do.

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

-Benjamin Franklin


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.