How to fire a friend at work the right way



There are few things more delicate than understanding how to fire a friend at work. Many of us are lucky enough to work with people we genuinely care about, but when we supervise our friends, our work life can get complicated. Sometimes, people behave inappropriately or otherwise create a hostile work environment. When that happens, a termination must be made.


It's rough firing any employee – but it’s especially more difficult firing an employee who's also your friend. If you need some advice (and consolation) regarding how to fire an employee who is also your friend, check out our example conversations, preparation tips, and ideas for how to handle the situation.


How can you prepare for the firing?

In uncomfortable instances when you have to fire a friend at work, it's helpful if you prepare in advance for how you'll do it, what you'll say, and more. You must prepare properly for the event. To help you get in the right mindset:

  • Speak with HR or an attorney: Employment laws will likely influence what you say, when you say it, and how you say it. Understanding employment laws can also prevent you and your company from getting sued. It can also ensure you and the small business you work for take the correct course of action.

  • Prepare a formal letter of termination: A formal letter of termination can write out the reasons you're firing an employee at work. It can also help remove any questions about why your friend is getting fired, when their benefits expire, and when the termination becomes official.

  • Disclose your relationship: If you have a personal relationship with a friend who you need to fire, make sure to get advice from your HR department. They can tell you the best way to proceed, and they may even recommend someone else step in for actual termination and decision to fire an employee.

  • Have a paper trail: Make sure you know exactly why termination is occurring and have all the documentation prepared in advance (just in case questions or legal action arise at a later date).

What should you keep in mind when you fire your friend at work?

When it's time to deliver the news, preparation is important. Consider these tips as you plan how to break the news:

  • Bring in someone from your HR department: They will unquestionably have specific guidance and items to keep in mind, and they can also help to manage this difficult situation - one that is likely even more difficult due to your friendship.

  • Understand that the emotions will be difficult: Managing a termination can be extremely difficult in the best circumstances. When you are firing your friend, it likely won't be pretty. Make sure you are prepared for a range of emotions, have tissues on-hand, and do your best not to take your friend's reaction personally.

  • Be clear: Don't leave your friend guessing when you start the meeting. Immediately tell them they are being terminated and tell them the specific reasoning. Don't try to "brace" them for the news: That never works.

Looking for more HR tips, tricks, and templates?

HR, employment law, and managing a small business can be exceedingly difficult. Fortunately, at the Teamworks Group, we have a variety of information available that can help ensure you know how to manage your HR and maximize the human potential of your small business. Check out our additional resources or reach out to us if you have any questions.