If you've had the TV on at all in the last couple of years, it would have been difficult to escape the sight of Donald Trump firing people. (I haven't watched the show, but the ads were always there!)
David Koeppel, writing in the NY Times, offers cogent and practical advice about firing people, making the key point that you should treat people with dignity. Seems commonsensical, more than even conscious!
(And related reading, I'm in the middle of The Manager's Book of Decencies: How Small Gestures Build Great Companies, by Steve Harrison. He links treating people well with building a culture of ethical behavior in your firm, among other benefits.)
Koeppel points out that treating people with respect may help small firms to avoid lawsuits. I've also read that doctors who apologize when medical errors are made are less likely to be sued.
Unless you're Donald Trump, you don't want to be sued. For one thing, it is expensive. Many large firms make a business decision to avoid the cost of litigation; when employees sue, they settle.
Paying someone you've fired hits your bottom line hard. Even more critical, you will never get back the energy spent dealing with even the threat of a lawsuit.
More often than not -- in large and small firms -- faulty hiring decisions lead to these sorts of bad endings.
The truly incompetent employee is pretty rare: there are mainly hiring managers who haven't asked the right questions.
What are the basic responsibilities and competencies of the job? What is the culture of your company, and what are the characteristics of the people who fit in?
You need to know the right questions to ask to test for competency and "fit"...and even more important, how to ask these questions.
The Times article is worth printing for future reference, in the unfortunate event that you do need to let go of an employee.
And stay tuned for more thoughts and resources on how to make good hiring decisions.