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Ask Aliya: What’s the Best Day to Fire Someone?

“Ask Aliya” is a column for lawyers who are the first legal hire at their company and need advice from an in-house lawyer who has been there before. Aliya Ramji was the director of legal and business strategy for Figure 1 Inc., a network used by more than one million healthcare professionals to share cases and collaborate. She is now a partner at McCarthy Tétrault, where she offers guidance on in-house law and startup businesses. To have your legal questions for startups answered, email [email protected] with "Ask Aliya" in the subject line.

Dear Aliya,

What is the best way to fire someone? Is it on Friday or the middle of the week? We just want to get some consistency around our process, and we’re not sure if it’s better to let someone stew over the weekend or do it during the week so other employees can ask questions about what happened. 

Bearer of Bad News


Dear Bearer of Bad News, 

A lot of CEOs live by the adage “hire slow, fire fast.” But having to fire an employee is a difficult task and is one of the toughest parts of being a manager. Once you’ve made a decision to fire an employee, there are a number of considerations that can make the termination process less painful for both the individual being let go and the remaining employees.  

There is no hard or fast rule for choosing the best day of the week to let an employee go. However, it is generally accepted that Friday is the worst day. A Friday termination leaves that employee to think about the decision over the weekend, with no opportunity to seek legal, professional, or other assistance, or to take proactive steps to find a new job. 

Additionally, remaining employees will have questions and may be worried about the safety of their employment. Any termination — whether of one or several employees — can be unsettling for all. A Friday termination leaves no time to address questions and other uncertainty before the weekend begins.  

Some people advocate for terminating employment on a Monday but, I believe, this is another day that should be avoided. While Monday gives the terminated employee the entire week to seek advice and begin searching for a new job, the employee may feel as if they have wasted their time by coming into work just to be fired. It also provides other employees with time to gossip, having a negative impact on productivity.  

The best time of the week to fire an employee seems to be mid-week, between Tuesday and Thursday. The terminated employee will still have time to take reasonable and necessary next steps, and the remaining employees will have the opportunity to ask questions and adapt to the change. However, exercise caution in striking the right balance between giving everyone the right amount of time to adjust, while mitigating unnecessary office chatter.  

Finally, the time of day should be considered when terminating an employee. A morning firing will give the terminated employee an extra day to take the steps mentioned above, but it may leave them frustrated and feeling like they came into work just to be fired. 

A morning firing also means the terminated employee will have to leave the office at a time when most coworkers are around. If you do choose the morning, you will want to ensure that the terminated employee leaves the office right away. Lingering may result in emotional outbursts.  

An afternoon termination will allow the employee to leave more discreetly, as others in the office will also be leaving work for the day. However, an afternoon firing may leave the terminated employee frustrated by feelings that the company fired them at the end of the day just to get an extra days’ work. An afternoon firing may also result in an unproductive day for the manager responsible for firing the employee, with the manager spending the day focused on the upcoming conversation instead of work. 

I do, however, recommend the afternoon, as the employee can collect their belongings and leave the office. I strongly suggest gathering an employee’s necessities (purse, wallet, jacket, and car keys) for them and suggesting a date and time to clear out any additional personal belongings from their desk. This way, they do not have to return to their desks while fellow employees watch.  

In the end, remember that what’s important is to terminate an employee in the most dignified way possible. It doesn’t matter if you think through the day and time if you don’t consider the messaging and tone of the termination. Treat your employee with respect and allow them a few minutes to digest the news. 

Ensure that you come prepared with a letter of termination and leave open the door for independent legal advice on any agreements and releases that you are hoping to have signed. Remain calm and be compassionate, and remember that this is one of the most difficult things the person across the table will experience. 

Aliya

About the Author

Aliya RamjiAliya Ramji was previously the director of legal and business strategy for Figure 1 Inc. Presently, she is a partner at McCarthy Tétrault, where she offers guidance on in-house law and startup businesses. She also was a 2016 recipient of ACC’s Top 10 30-Somethings.


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