If you're a business owner or manager, firing an employee may be the hardest things you ever have to do. You worry about avoiding a loud scene--or even violent retaliation, as when a factory worker in Illinois pulled out a gun and began shooting during a termination meeting earlier this year, killing five people and wounding several more. You worry about opening your company up to legal action. And, unless the employee is being fired for sever misconduct, you also worry about being as humane and empathetic as you can.
It's hard to know which words and which procedures will make the termination as painless as possible. There may not be one best way to fire someone. But at least there's one best day to do it: Wednesday, preferably in the morning.
For years, HR experts advised employers to let people go on Friday afternoon. The idea was that to give ex-employees the weekend to process the news, and also to give them their final paychecks, which were often issued on Fridays.
But there are a few problems with Friday firings. Giving employees the whole weekend to process their feelings also means giving them the whole weekend to stew about how they've been treated, perhaps becoming more and more resentful. And to fires someone on a Friday afternoon firing is practically encouraging that person to seek solace at a bar. Adding alcohol to those stewing feelings may not be helpful for either your company or your former employee.
Also, if fired employees have questions, about health insurance benefits or unused vacation time, they'll have to wait through the weekend before they can get answers to those questions. And then there are your remaining employees, some of whom may be friends the person you hired. Chances are, they'll have both concerns and lots of questions about why their former colleague was fired. Making them wait through the weekend for answers won't help anyone's morale.
Finally, employees who've been terminated may want to immediately start lining up their next job, contacting recruiters or reaching out to their professional networks to learn what opportunities are out there for them. Forcing them to wait two days to begin this process won't help them, and it won't hurt you either since it's in your best interest for them to find other work as quickly as possible.
The problem with Monday.
Given Friday's drawbacks, some HR experts advocate for Monday as the best day to fire someone. After all, that gives former employees an entire week to resolve any outstanding issues with your company and also to make a start on their job searches. But most HR experts these days recommending firing people toward the beginning of the day, or perhaps at lunchtime, rather than at the end of the day. And if you fire an employee at the very start of the week, that employee may wonder why he or she bothered getting dressed for work and facing the morning commute.
Why Wednesday is best.
That leaves the middle of the week. Rachel Bitte, chief recruiting officer at recruiting software company Jobvite, says she has no single preferred day for firing an employee, but she prefers to do it Tuesday to Thursday.
But a Tuesday morning firing can leave employees feeling like your company squeezed one last day of work out of them, knowing they were about to leave. And a Thursday afternoon firing doesn't leave employees much time to get any questions answered and start their job search before the weekend rolls around.
A Wednesday morning termination walks the fine line between too early in the week and too late. It gives former employees two full business days to get any questions resolved and to begin their job search--even if they take the rest of the day to regroup and process the news. It also gives you two full days to discuss the situation with your remaining employees.
So next time you need to fire an employee, break the news on a Wednesday early in the day. It won't make the conversation any easier. But at least the timing won't make the process any worse than it needs to be.