How to Fire Someone—Or Just Watch a Co-worker Get Fired

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It’s etiquette time. The day when someone you’ve worked with for years, or even for a few months, gets walked to the door with a box of personal items (and perhaps some pilfered notepads and pens) is awkward, to say the least. Since layoffs are so commonplace nowadays, it behooves everyone to have a clue what to do. How should the workplace survivors handle it? And how should you handle it if you’re the one delivering the bad news?

A Boston Globe story offers some tips for the former scenario. Here’s one thing not to do: Don’t pass the hat and gather a collection of $10s and $20s for the dude who just got the axe. It’ll embarrass everyone, and may even anger the boss.

As for how to deliver the bad news, the consensus is that because there’s no easy way out, because offering anything resembling condolences can backfire, and because of concerns about lawsuits, being cold and clear seems to be the way to go. Check out the script Yahoo recommends when delivering news of layoffs, which was leaked to ValleyWag a few months ago.

The advice might be summed up as “Don’t try to be a human being.” But specifically: Don’t engage in small talk. Don’t discuss other employees or make comparisons. Don’t say that you disagree with the decision. Keep the meeting to a maximum of 15 minutes. And do say “I appreciate what you have done for Yahoo.”