Firing someone can be the hardest part of a management position. But there are ways to make the experience easier for both parties involved.
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The Art of Manliness is a great blog that regularly posts about things that have nothing to do with being manly at all, not that I'm complaining. Although it does often talk about boldness and strength -- two qualities that will help you in this particular situation. Of course, that's not in a sociopathic kind of way. In some situations, getting straight to the point is actually the respectful thing to do.
Case in point, when you're letting someone go. There are several things to keep in mind, both to protect yourself and the person being let go. TAoM goes into how to protect their ego in a circumstance many would already feel humiliated in, as well as checklist items such as notifying IT (and possibly security) beforehand.
Two of the biggest tips are to act quickly - as there's a fair bit of preparation involved, especially in Australia - and to document everything:
Protecting yourself legally has become ever more important in today’s litigation-happy society. You need to document any infractions or performance problems well in advance of any action being taken. Keep digital (and physical) folders of emails sent, write-ups given, PIPs, etc. You want any communication in writing, so even if your conversations were face-to-face you’ll want to send summary emails. Don’t let any communication or reprimanding happen prior to the firing without documentation.
Often the person will know something like this is on the cards, and they'll know exactly what you're doing when you send summary emails. But that's okay -- most people understand you have to cover yourself, and having things in writing now is way better than getting into a he said/she said down the track.
Australia has its own regulations when it comes to firing someone, and if you're in a large company, you'll obviously have the benefit of a HR department. For anyone else, you'll have to familiarise yourself with unfair dismissal laws.