How to Write a Professional Termination Letter

Being the boss isn't always that great. One of the worst jobs of all is when you must fire someone. Whether you are downsizing or they have conducted themselves in a way that they should no longer work for you, the basic structure of a letter is the same. Here are a few pointers to make a professional yet effective termination letter:

Grammar and Formatting
All business letters should have excellent formatting and grammar. If you are unsure how to write a proper business letter, there are some excellent tutorials to be found on the internet. If this is not something you do typically, consider getting someone to proofread your letter and ensure that it is correct. Don't be embarrassed if this is you, generations of bosses have relied on excellent secretaries and office managers to do this for years, and many couldn't do it themselves either.

Neutral Tone
A good business letter should have a neutral tone. Don't complain or sound angry, simply list the grievances that caused the termination, and where the rules were found, such as in an employee handbook. Detail the actions that were taken, such as probation, and state the terms of termination, whatever they may be.

Get a Lawyer
Show your letter to your lawyer. One of the largest risks you have with termination is a wrongful termination suit. An attorney can look at your letter as well as the termination circumstances and let you know whether you are legally covered. If you are not, they may ask you to wait to terminate and to give someone a warning letter first, while documenting all cases of infractions, details and dates. No matter how much a person deserves to be fired, even an appearance of impropriety can cause a lawsuit. By creating an airtight case, you can often fend off a lawsuit because honest lawyers will look and see that the firing was justified and the case unlikely to be winnable.

Offer Terms
One of the last steps in a termination letter is to inform someone of the terms of their termination. If it is a downsizing, then the last date of work as well as any pension or other severance package should be detailed. A reminder should be given if someone has signed a noncompete clause, reminding them of the radius within which they cannot do business until the noncompete expires. If they have the right to protest or need more information, refer them to the person, probably your HR head, who should be giving them this advice. If you did not fire them for cause, but circumstance, be certain to let them know if you would be willing to be a reference for them in future employment endeavors.

Cite this page: Nugent, Pam M.S., "How to Write a Professional Termination Letter," in PsychologyDictionary.org, January 26, 2016, https://psychologydictionary.org/article/how-to-write-a-professional-termination-letter/ (accessed December 18, 2018).
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