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Delivering the Hard Message: Employee Termination

Linnea Appleby Comments
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3. Rehearse what you are going to say and how you will say it. Try to consider the questions, feelings or responses from the person you are terminating. Bracket your hard points with good points so it is easier for the employee to accept. A statement such as, "I appreciate that you are always on time and work hard but we are not getting the results we need even after our conversation two weeks ago, so I am letting you go. I think you have a lot to offer the right employer, it’s just not us." This is easier to take than, "You’re fired!"

4. Be empathetic. Consider the financial, emotional and intellectual impact that your decision will have on the person and do what you can to make this transition easier. While you are not responsible for his future well-being, you will feel better having shown consideration in the situation.


1. Stick to your plan. Once you have made the decision, don’t change it midstream. It will only delay the inevitable and make for a very uncomfortable and troubled environment.

2. Do not demote someone. While he or she may make a great maintenance person rather than property manager, it’s best for both of you if this employee works elsewhere. A fresh start for each of you is deserved. Let the person leave with dignity intact. Sometimes a person knows a job isn’t the right fit, or that he is incapable of doing better, but no one wants to admit failure. No need to beat a dead horse by demoting him.

3. Don’t get emotional. By the time you’ve reached your decision, all of the emotional issues have been resolved. This is now a business decision. Do not let the conversation deteriorate into an emotional volley or personal attack. Keep it business-like. A termination should not take longer than five to seven minutes.


1. End on a positive note. Wish the person well (and mean it), looking him or her in the eye and shaking hands.

2. Be cautious about giving unsolicited advice. It won’t be well-received.

3. Allow the employee enough time to collect personal belongings, but no time to loiter onsite. Finally, just to be safe, change the locks.

Owners know better than anyone that these facilities are valuable investments requiring constant, vigilant attention. A termination is uncomfortable for all parties involved. However, when handled in a professional manner, the net result should prove to be positive for everyone. 

Linnea Appleby is president of PDQ Management Solutions Inc., a Sarasota, Fla.-based company that provides full-service facility management, consulting, startup services, auditing, management training and more. She is also the managing director for the Florida Self Storage Association. For information, call 941.377.3151; visit

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