Firing Your Staff: A Guide to Doing it Right

Ariel Arrieta


Given the extreme markets of today, which are swinging violently between rewarding growth at all costs to demanding profitability, restructuring of the workforce and massive layoffs are becoming widespread.

One of the hardest things I have had to do as an entrepreneur was to lay off almost all my employees in 2001, after the Dot-com bubble burst of 2000 and the Argentine crisis of 2001. Although the reasons for both crises were different, the consequences were similar.

This pattern, seen only in major crises, has recently become a recurring topic of discussion with various founders confronting layoffs. In this post, I want to share what I have learned firsthand about this.


The first thing that any good CEO or business leader should do is to protect their business and their people as much as possible.

How you fire someone says a lot about you as a leader can significantly impact your company culture.

It is essential to do it the right way.

The first thing you have to do is define the criterion on which you will base the layoffs, and it is imperative to be as objective and fair as possible and consider all the factors involved.

Once you have defined the criterion, the next step is to communicate to the employees affected by the layoffs and then to the rest of the company. It is crucial to be clear and concise in the explanation and avoid leaving room for misinterpretation.

Here are a few tips on how to fire someone the right way:

  1. Take the time to do it right: If you have to make the difficult decision to let go of an employee, make sure you do it thoughtfully and carefully. Avoid deciding in a hurry or a moment of anger.
  2. Do it in person: Whenever possible, it’s best to have the conversation in person, either in person or over a video call. This shows respect for the employee and allows for a more personal, empathetic exchange. If you have to do it over the phone, make sure to do so with empathy.
  3. Be clear and concise: When communicating the decision to let an employee go, be clear and concise about why. Don’t sugarcoat it or make excuses, but do take the time to provide context and explain the decision.
  4. Be respectful: Acknowledge and recognize the value the employee has contributed to the company, and treat them with the same respect you would want to be treated with. Avoid being rude, condescending, or unprofessional.
  5. Show empathy: Put yourself in the employee’s shoes and try to understand what they are going through. This can help diffuse tension and make the experience more bearable for both parties.
  6. Don’t do it alone: In most cases, it’s a good idea to consult your team or board of directors before making a final decision. Be prepared for any reactions from the employee, and take appropriate precautions, but try not to react emotionally.
  7. Offer severance: In many cases, offering severance to the employee can help them transition to a new job and protect your company from legal action.
  8. Follow up: After the conversation, follow up with the employee to see how they are doing. This shows that you care about them as a person and can help to prevent any bad blood between you and the employee.
  9. Offer career support: If possible, match the employee with a recruiter, job coach, or someone who can help them prepare a resume and apply for new jobs. Offer to be a reference in their future search. This sm

The last step is to carry out the layoffs; this is usually the most challenging.

  • Assess the potential impact on the remaining employees
  • Communicate when you are finished with the restructuring process.
  • Be aware of the informal relationships between the fired employees and the remaining employees. and the leadership that they have.
  • Be aware of the effect that you will generate on those who remain, of the underlying messages and the potential bias that your decision communicates to various types: , farmers vs. Hunters, old employees vs. new employees, introverted vs. extroverted, etc.
  • Your decision carries a message about the type of employee the company wants to have and keep. It is good to own it rather than leave it to open interpretation.
  • Beware: Restructuring can make it challenging to get work done and could lead to a decline in productivity. Additionally, a culture of conflict can arise, leading to high-stress levels for employees, which can impact their health and well-being. Plan some activities and conversations accordingly to re-energize your remaining workforce.


This is the occasion when your values and your strength as a company and as a leader are put to the test. The restructuring process is a necessary growing pain. This is also an opportunity to develop your leadership, articulate your company values, and live by them instead of just talking about them. Friedrich Nietzsche famously said, “What does not kill you makes you stronger.”