Termination 101
Firing An Employee In The Special Library/Information Center

link to introductin link to section describing firing link to section about reasons for termination link to section about lawsuits

link to section about the exit interview link to the conclusion link to the bibliography



    All special library managers hire employees with the hope that a wonderful working relationship will be formed.  The interviewing process helps to ensure that only qualified, hard-working applicants are hired as employees.  Unfortunately, this does not always happen.  At some time, every manager will be forced to terminate the employment of a worker under his/her supervision.
    This is difficult, not only for the employee who is being let go, but also for the manager who must give this person the bad news.  However, there are guidelines to follow and helpful hints to remember to ease the stress involved with the process of firing an employee.

What Is Firing?

    The termination of employment may happen in two ways.  The first is called resignation.  When an employee resigns, he leaves the special library/information center by his own choice.  Also known as “voluntary termination,” resignation is a common practice as employees move forward with their careers and personal lives.
    This chapter will deal with a second type of termination, known as “involuntary termination.”  This is the type of termination referred to when someone is fired from employment (Online Women’s Business Center).

Reasons For Termination

    Involuntary termination, or firing, of an employee may take place for several reasons.  In this section, the types of situations leading to termination are spelled out, and special circumstances surrounding each are discussed.

Termination For Cause

One major reason for firing an employee is  “termination for cause.” This happens when an employee seriously jeopardizes his/her fellow employees or the company.  Included in this category are such actions as stealing from the company or threatening another employee.  This type of termination occurs quickly because it is important to remove the problem employee from the vicinity of the library and the other employees.  Termination for cause is also often easier for the employer than other types of termination because the employee to be fired has committed a blatant offense.  Again, all events must be documented thoroughly (Online Women’s Business Center).

Poor Performance

Many times, employees are fired because of poor work performance.  This occurs when an employee performs poorly on the job consistently for some period of time. 
Employees fired for this reason are not entirely surprised.  This is because a great deal of documentation, communication and reevaluation are involved in making the decision to terminate employment because of poor performance. 
The first time poor employees may be informed that there is a problem with their performance is at the employee evaluation.  Evaluations are crucial in any special library or information center.  They allow the employer to let employees know where their strengths and weaknesses lie.
When an employee is given a poor evaluation, the supervisor should offer counseling so that the problem may be corrected.  Often times, this nudge in the right direction is sufficient to correct the employee’s errors. 
If an employee’s performance does not improve with counseling, more steps must be taken to ensure that employee the opportunity to improve.  The worker should receive a written document, explaining all deficiencies (Farr).  It is important to thoroughly document both the offenses committed by the employee and steps taken to improve performance.  Without this written proof, the special library and its parent organization may be at risk of losing any lawsuit filed by a terminated employee.  The law, as it relates to termination, will be discussed in a later section.
After counseling the employee and documenting the work-related problems, the employer should reevaluate the employee to ascertain the level of improvement.  If all of these steps are taken and there is little or no improvement in the employee’s job performance, termination may be considered.  In many cases, however, the struggling employee may realize that this job is not suitable to him/her.  At that time, the employee may wish to resign of his/her own accord (Farr).


The final reason an employee may be terminated is the layoff.  Employees are laid off when budget cuts or a lack of work force the library to sever the working relationship with one or more employees.  This type of involuntary termination is unique, because the employee is not terminated because of his/her own actions.  When employees are to be laid off, library managers should follow some special guidelines.
The library manager or supervisor should not rush into the process of laying off employees.  It must first be determined that a reduction in staff is the only viable answer for the problem at hand, be it lack of work or a money situation.  It is important to remember that losing an employee or employees may leave the library without enough resources to function (Butcher).
When employees are laid off, the library and/or its parent organization may wish to offer outplacement services (Karp). This may enable the terminated employee(s) to bounce back quickly and effectively.
Finally, when laying off employees, it is necessary to organize the exit interview to reflect the reason for termination.  Employees who are laid off should be treated differently than those fired for poor performance or severe misbehavior (Gandz).


Before firing an employee for any reason, it is necessary to examine the law.  Lawsuits brought about by terminated employees are common.  It is important for the organization to be aware of employment laws to avoid a costly settlement.
These laws are numerous.  The responsibility for knowing them should be written into the job description someone at the special library or parent organization (Spragins).  In some situations, such as corporate special libraries, it is important to note that each state has its own laws pertaining to employee termination.  Make sure the individual in charge of knowing the laws has special knowledge about the law of that state. 
Lawsuits become more and more common all the time.  Some general guidelines, however, can be followed to lessen the possibility of a lawsuit being filed by a disgruntled ex-employee.


The most important rule of thumb is to document everything related to the employee’s dismissal.  In the case of employees terminated for poor job performance, this means having on file all job evaluations, notices of deficiency, and a rough written transcript of what is said in the exit interview. 
Written documentation for employees terminated for serious violations in conduct is also required.  The library manager and witnesses to the behavioral disturbance should write a description.  Again, a transcript of the exit interview is necessary.
In the case of layoffs, the special library manager should document any potential circumstances that may cause layoffs in the future (Spragins). 

Ease The Blow

    Another way to reduce the likelihood of lawsuits is to try to ease the blow of job loss.  In some cases, employers may wish to offer individuals who are fired for poor job performance several months’ pay in exchange for “a full release of all claims” (Farr). 
 Individuals who are laid off may be offered a severance package (Farr).  Additionally, employers may wish to help people who have been laid off by allowing them to conduct their job search from the company office (Spragnis).  In this way, the former employee leaves the library with less of a bad taste in his/her mouth.  These employees will be less likely to file a wrongful termination suit against the special library or parent organization.

Lowering the Boom: Termination Strategies

    When the time comes to let an employee go, there are many steps that must be taken.  The library manager must consult with his/her supervisors and prepare for the exit interview.  This interview is a delicate situation and should be handled professionally and with extreme care.


    Before terminating the employment of an individual, the library manager must prepare carefully.  First, the manager should consult with his/her supervisors.  If the termination of the individual is not acceptable to the higher-ranking officials in the library or parent organization, the manager may not be able to fire that employee.  The manager’s supervisors should be kept abreast of all actions leading up to the decision to terminate employment (McNamara).
    After notifying his/her supervisors of the pending termination, the manager should follow a list of guidelines to ensure as successful a termination as possible.
The manager should:

  • Review all written documents included in the individual’s file.
  • Plan out and practice what will be said in the exit interview.
  • Be able to answer any question the employee might have about the termination.
  • Prepare a list of all company belongings that should be returned upon termination, including keys, credit cards and software.
  • Write a termination letter for the employee in advance.
  • Consult legal counsel with questions about termination
  • Bring in a witness for the exit interview
  • Prepare to change security passwords
(Online Women’s Business Center)

     When the decision to terminate has been made, the employer must remember to act quickly.  Preparation is important, but must not take a very long time (McNamara).

What Time Is Best?

    Many managers have preferences about when and how to terminate employment.  Some managers say Thursday is the best day to fire an employee, so that the other employees will have a chance to discuss the matter on Friday and come in ready for work the following Monday (Butcher).  Many managers believe that Mondays and Fridays should be avoided (Ward). 
The time of year should also be considered when making the decision to fire.  Terminating and employee right before a holiday, such as Christmas, is not only ethically disturbing, but may make that employee more likely to file a lawsuit against the organization (Ward).
Many times, employers fire employees either very early or very late in the day so that the individual will have time to gather his or her things out of the sight of other employees.
In truth, there is no correct time to fire an employee.  Instead, the manager should be practical, picking a day and time when everyone concerned is able to meet (Rubin).

The Exit Interview

    At the time of the employee termination exit interview, many things must occur.  There are some tips that may prove helpful to make the interview as clear and easy as possible.  The employer should not begin with a phrase like “’I have some bad news’ or ‘I don’t know how to tell you this’” (Clarke).  Instead, the manager should be as straightforward as possible.  Additionally, the manager should not apologize.  If the proper steps have been taken, then employer has every right to dismiss the employee from his/her duties (Clarke).
The employer must begin by telling the employee that he/she will no longer be working at the special library.  It is important that the manager clearly explain why this course of action has been taken.  If proper evaluation and documentation has taken place, the termination should be no surprise.  It must be clear to the employee that this decision is final, and chances for reconciliation are over.  At this time, the written letter of termination should be given to the employee. (Online Women’s Business Center).
The employer should also explain all benefits, such as insurance and unemployment, available to that employee (Online Women’s Business Center).
The employer may wish to offer the employee help in finding new job.  It is important to remember that this is not necessary in every case.
Finally, if the employee is thought to be violent, he/she should be escorted from the building.
After the exit interview is over, it is very important that the manager write down what happened at the interview.  This should be done immediately because as time passes, the manager’s recollection of the events may fade (Online Women’s Business Center).


    At some point, virtually every manager must fire an employee.  Although the process is difficult for all parties concerned, it is necessary if the special library or information center is to provide a high level of service.  The information contained in this chapter may allow library managers to terminate problem employees or lay off employees that are no longer needed effectively and with poise.


Butcher, D. “Ready Aim Fire.” Management Today.  November, 2001. Pg. 68.

CCH Business Owner’s Toolkit .  Available at:
http://csi.toolkit.cch.com/text/P05_8120.asp   Accessed 04/25/02.

Clarke, Robyn.  “The Bearer of Bad News.”  Black Enterprise.  July 2000. Pg. 61.

Eby, L. and Kimberly Buch.  “The Impact of Adopting an Ethical Approach to 
    Employee Dismissal During Corporate Restructuring.”  Journal of Business
    Ethics.  Vol. 17, no. 12.  Pgs. 1253-1265.

Farr.  “Terminations Require Careful Study, Planning.”  Small Business. 
    November 17, 2000.  Pg. 15.

Fletcher, W.  “The Art of Being Blunt Tactfully.”  Management Today. 
    May 2000. Pg. 34 –35.

Gandz, J.  “Terminating Managers and Executives.”  Business Quarterly. 
    Vol. 51, no 1.  Pg. 14-16.

Inc.com .  “Avoiding Employee Lawsuits.”  Available at:
    Accessed 04/25/02.

Karp, R.  “Ethical Values Underlying the Termination Process.” 
    Business and Society.  Vol 30, no 1.  Pg. 1-6.

Mulling, E.  “Terminations?  Tough, But Do It Right.”  The Business Journal. 
    Vol 15, issue 37.  Pg. 15

Online Women’s Business Center .  “Parting Ways: Effective Termination 
    Techniques.  Available at: 
Accessed 04/25/02.

Rubin, R.  Human Resource Management in Libraries.  New York, London:
    Neal-Schuman Publishers.  1991. Pg. 175.

Ward, M.  “A Manager’s Nightmare: Firing an Employee.”  EDN. Vol 35,
    No 16A. Pgs 1-3.