Parting ways with an employee is a very stressful experience no matter how much you convince yourself it’s the best for both parties. Your employee may yell and cry and make wild accusations, and you will do your best to suck it up until he or she leaves the office.

Preparation and a lawyer can help before you ever encounter the fateful day. Contrary to the news, you can’t handle this with a Tweet or letting someone go hours before their retirement begins.

Your preparation and the go-to document should be a staff manual. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your practice is too small, or that your employees are family and you would never have to fire one. That’s a shortcut to an employee lawsuit.

Let your staff handbook guide you

The scope of the staff handbook covers banalities of holidays, working hours, social media use, sick leave, and the general behavior you expect. You will give this to every employee, who must sign to agree they’ve received it, read it and understood it. A sample staff manual can be found at Your lawyer may have one, too.

The handbook should also outline reasons for immediate dismissal. For example, endangering a patient, and a process for handling other damaging behavior. Usually, this begins with a conversation. “Chris, why are you late for work every day?” “Why are you so rude to the techs?” You should also explain the impact on patients, doctors and the business of your practice.

Then check-in with the employee on an agreed upon interval. If things are going well, good. Get on with it. Otherwise, you need to issue a verbal warning to the employee that they may be dismissed immediately if the problem continues. Follow-up with a written warning copied to your partners and your lawyer.

At this point, employees must know what’s coming. So, when you call them in for the talk to fire them, there should be no surprises.

Then give it to them straight. No hedging or apologizing. All you need to say is “you haven’t corrected behavior X, and I’ve decided to dismiss you from the practice.” Then you or someone else should walk them to collect their personal belongings and out the door.

You’ll feel sad for a few minutes, or a few days, but then you’ll feel like a stack of weights has been lifted from your chest. Eventually, your former employee will find a better situation or a new career. But your focus needs to be on the business of the practice, and the patients, doctors, and other employees that depend on it for their health and livelihood.