I have written about how to make great hires, how to build great relationships with your employees, and how to keep your best talent around. But to this point, I have avoided the considerably more unpleasant topic of firing an employee.

This recent article in HBR reminded me that sometimes this unpleasant reality is just part of the job and because we don’t have to do it very often, many times when the time comes, we are unsure in our approach. Here’s what I recommend when it’s time to let an employee go.

Don’t wait too long. Trust me, putting it off isn’t going to make firing someone you’ve worked closely with any easier. Waiting too long is not productive for them or the organization. The longer you wait, the more potential problems you allow the person to cause within the company. If there are other employees who are frustrated with that employee, you may be further alienating them as well.

Have another person present for support. It’s never going to be fun, but it’s important that firing someone doesn’t feel like they are enduring a one vs. one personal attack. Whether it’s a representative from HR or another member of your leadership team, having one other person in the room for support shows that it’s not a personal thing, it’s a business decision.

Be brief. This shouldn’t be the first time this employee’s performance issues have been addressed. Therefore you shouldn’t be spending hours detailing and justifying every last reason why the termination is taking place. As hard as it can feel not to apologize, you should go into it with the firm belief that it is not a personal decision.

Be empathetic. With that said, you don’t want to act like a robot. Show that you understand how difficult and disappointing this must be for them and sincerely thank them for their time. If you can offer a reference in the future or have some other way to help, let them know. Ask them if they have any questions and offer to show them out.

So there you have it. Firing employees is not fun, but it’s something that all leaders must do at some point during the life of their business. Is there a specific tactic you’ve used that has worked particularly well? Let me know in the comments below.

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