The only thing worse than firing a pizzeria employee is being the employee who gets fired. It’s a deeply unpleasant experience for everyone involved. Aside from the discomfort of breaking the bad news to an employee who didn’t see it coming, restaurant owners face the risk of retribution—thanks to social media, a disgruntled ex-staffer can exact revenge in various ways that might be hard to trace.

When terminating an employee, the boss must strike a tricky balance— kindness and grace on one hand and firmness on the other. Here are some tips culled from PMQ’s Think Tank forum and other sources.

  • Refer to your company handbook. If you don’t have a handbook that covers employment requirements and causes for termination, you need to develop one. Every new employee should be required to review the handbook and sign their copy. Then, you can refer to the handbook in explaining your reasons for letting the employee go.
  • Create a paper trail. If you’ve experienced job performance issues with the employee and offered multiple opportunities to correct them, document these problems in accordance with your handbook policy. If the employee was repeatedly late or often missed work entirely, be ready to show reports from your time-keeping system.
  • Deliver the news in-person. Don’t fire anyone by email or text. Break the bad news face-to-face, in a private setting, and don’t beat around the bush. Get to the point quickly, so the employee has time to absorb the news. Do it graciously but firmly, and don’t apologize. Make it clear that your decision is final.
  • Arrange for a witness. Bring in a manager to sit in on the meeting. This person can vouch for your conduct and professionalism during the meeting and support your case for termination if the employee takes legal action against your business.
  • Have a final paycheck ready. If possible, go ahead and give the employee his last paycheck on the spot, including any vacation pay and/or bonuses accrued. If company policy calls for severance pay, include that in the check. If not, and if your budget allows, include a “goodwill bonus” in the check to reduce the financial blow (assuming the employee wasn’t fired for reasons such as stealing, harassing colleagues or mistreating customers).
  • Avoid confrontation. It can be tempting to tell the employee off, but it’s not worth the trouble in the long run. If the conversation turns ugly, that employee might look for ways to get revenge on your business further down the line by posting nasty reviews on your Yelp page or attacking you on social media. Keep the tone professional and try to part ways amicably.
  • Make sure the employee leaves immediately. To protect the employee’s dignity and make sure the person doesn’t have the chance to upset other team members, ask him or her to leave as soon as the conversation ends.
  • Cut off the employee’s access to information systems. Change passwords and access codes to your POS system, email, company website, security systems, etc. Remove the person as an administrator for any social media accounts.
  • Keep an eye on social media and online review sites. Some fired employees will use these platforms to get revenge on you, whether through fake reviews on your Yelp page or nasty posts on your Facebook page. Be on the lookout for any suspicious online activity that could hurt your business.

It’s difficult to end things on a positive note after firing an employee, but do your best. Let the person know if he or she will be eligible to collect unemployment or continue to receive health benefits for a period of time. If you believe the person deserves it, offer to give a positive reference or provide a letter of recommendation to future potential employers. And refrain from talking negatively about the terminated employees to other members of your team. Let the person leave with his or her dignity intact. Ask yourself, “How would I want to be fired?” and do it that way, regardless of your personal feelings or frustrations.

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