Documentation to Termination

Not every employee becomes your superstar. In fact, some require various levels of coaching and opportunity to improve. As employers and managers, we’ve all been there when you start to think about cutting your losses and terminating the employee. For most managers, this causes some angst as terminating an employee is a difficult and emotional endeavour.


Before you make that decision, consider if you gave the employee the resources and opportunity to succeed.

Some points to consider:

  • Was the employee properly on-boarded and provided with the information and tools needed to do his/her job?
  • Did you have a One-on-One when he/she started?
  • Did you set expectations?
  • Was there open dialogue and opportunity to ask questions?
  • When his/her job performance wasn’t up to par, did you discuss it?
  • In the discussion, was it clearly spelled out what was lacking and how it could be resolved?
  • Were there any potential mitigating circumstances that may have had an impact on his/her performance? i.e. bullying in the workplace, issues at home, illness (physical or mental)
  • Has his/her performance recently changed for the worse?


Regardless of your local or federal laws and potential ability to dismiss an employee without cause (i.e. during the probationary period), terminating someone without providing any ability to improve is a poor business practice.  If you are dealing with a sensitive topic, these tips may help you.

Some employees may not realize that you are finding their performance to be subpar and when you have this conversation, he/she may improve and become your next model employee. It’s up to you whether you give him/her that chance but if you do not, you can risk losing a potentially good employee as well as tarnishing your reputation as an employer. An employee who is fired without any previous indication that his/her performance is lacking is bound to leave upset, confused and potentially, angry.


You’ve decided to speak to the employee, which is great, and now you need to document these conversations. Especially if you are not in a jurisdiction where you can arbitrarily dismiss employees without paying a reasonable severance, documentation may save you from a lawsuit.

Start keeping notes. Depending on the severity of the issue, your notes can be a simple one-liner with the date of the instance to a thorough description of the problem. Dates and times can be significant thus, keep track of this as best as possible. If it is an instance where other employees were privy or a witness to the incident, make note of that as well.

Always hold your disciplinary conversations in private and ensure you document the details including date of discussion, what was discussed (issue, solution), and comments the employee made. End the conversation with a date that you will re-connect to follow-up on the issue.

Typically, an employer will need to hold several documented conversations up to verbal and written warnings prior to termination. Hopefully, with your guidance and coaching, the employee won’t be terminated but in the unfortunate instance he/she is, you have appropriate records to back up your decision to terminate.


Post by: Lynn McIlwee