From the Other Side of the Screen: Why You Need to Rethink Your Virtual Approach to Firing  

From the Other Side of the Screen: Why You Need to Rethink Your Virtual Approach to Firing  

Remote work is shaking up the way we do business, and it’s pretty amazing! We’re talking flexibility, cost savings, and a more diverse pool of talented candidates at your fingertips. But not everything‘s smooth sailing in this virtual paradise. For instance, how do you bid farewell to a team member when you’re miles apart? 

Cue virtual empathy! It’s the ingredient you need in your virtual management toolkit. Join us as we dive into the world of virtual empathy and discover why it’s a total game-changer when letting go of an employee from the other side of the screen. We’re with you on this virtual journey! 

Virtual Empathy for Superpowered Human Connection 

According to McKinsey, a whopping 58 percent of Americans now have the chance to rock their pajamas and work remotely at least once a week.¹ But with this digital revolution comes a new set of challenges, like maintaining that crucial human connection from behind our screens. 

When it comes to laying off employees, let’s face it, it’s just a part of the recruitment process as much as onboarding—and a tough one at that. Whether it’s terrible performance or economic downturns, laying off employees becomes a necessary process to keep a sustainable company. 

Empathy becomes the bridge that unites our screens in this wild digital age and reminds us that we’re all in this virtual reality together. And yes, it applies when it’s time to part ways with an employee. 

Handling Virtual Terminations with Grace and Respect 

Virtual firing is never an easy task. But approaching it with empathy, clarity, and professionalism can help minimize the negative impact and make the process as smooth as possible for both parties involved. Here’s how to let someone go remotely. 

1. Plan ahead. 

Before hitting that send button or jumping on a video call, take a moment to gather your thoughts and map out your game plan.  

  • Think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. 
  • Make a script, or at least have one in your mind. 
  • Prepare for the unexpected and think of worst-case scenarios. 

You’ll thank yourself later when the conversation goes smoothly. Remember, you’re not just delivering bad news; you’re also dealing with a real person and their emotions. 

So, put yourself in their shoes and try to anticipate their questions or reactions. Having a well-thought-out plan in place will make the whole process a whole lot easier for the two of you. 

2. Choose the appropriate medium. 

When it’s time to deliver the news of parting ways, choosing the proper medium makes a difference. You want to ensure you’re striking the right balance between personal and professional. It’s like finding the perfect blend of coffee—it’s all about that right mix! 

Video calls are the closest to having a face-to-face conversation. You can see each other’s expressions, read body language, and connect on a more human level. Alternatively, you can use phone calls to deliver the message as you can still empathize with the employees, and they can still hear your voice.  

Please avoid the impersonal pitfall of firing someone via email or a quick message. Delivering difficult news with empathy is what sets you apart as a caring and professional leader. 

3. Be compassionate and respectful. 

Compassion and respect are the ultimate power duo. Think of them as Batman and Robin or peanut butter and jelly. It’s essential to approach the situation with genuine care and understanding. Put yourself in their shoes and acknowledge the impact this news may have on their lives. 

  • Try not to seem casual or indifferent. 
  • Don’t just say, “There are other jobs out there.” 
  • Don’t rush the conversation and answer every question. 
  • Mention their strengths and how they can hone them. 
  • If they are valuable, tell them and explain why they need to be let go.  

Show them that you see them as a person and not just an employee. They may be getting the short end of the stick over a virtual termination, but it doesn’t mean it has to be cut and dry. You can still show respect and compassion. 

4. Be clear and concise. 

Start by explaining the reasons for their termination in a straightforward manner. Avoid beating around the bush or going into unnecessary details. During the conversation, be transparent, and don’t forget to provide feedback on their performance. 

Let them know where they excelled and where improvements were needed. And be open to their questions and thoughts. It allows them to have a voice and gain some closure.  

But being clear and concise doesn’t mean being cold and robotic, either. Balancing clarity with compassion allows employees to handle the situation better.  

5. Offer assistance. 

Once you’ve delivered the news, show that you’re not just pressing the eject button and leaving them adrift in space. Offer information about any available severance packages or outplacement services that can provide them with a soft landing. 

Share helpful tips, websites, or contacts that could help them navigate the vast galaxy of job opportunities. But it’s not just about providing resources; it’s also about being there to listen and offer guidance, if appropriate. 

Sometimes, all it takes is a friendly ear and words of encouragement to boost their spirits. You can be that supportive presence in their journey, ready to assist in any way you can. You’ll show that even in challenging times, empathy and support can shine through the virtual space. 

6. Maintain confidentiality. 

Remember to zip your virtual lips and keep termination details to yourself. Avoid gossiping or discussing the situation with other employees unless absolutely necessary for operational reasons. 

Maintaining confidentiality shows your professionalism and respect for the individual’s privacy. Confidentiality isn’t just a policy; it’s a testament to your integrity and the way you build a culture of trust within your team, remote or otherwise. 

7. Follow up. 

Take care of any necessary documentation or paperwork. Whether it’s termination letters, severance agreements, or other official forms, make sure to handle them promptly and efficiently. 

To make things even smoother, collaborate with your HR or relevant departments to address any administrative matters. Doing this demonstrates your commitment to professionalism and ensures necessary steps are taken to wrap things up properly. 

Empathetic Management Boosts Your Team’s Productivity and Happiness 

When it comes to managing a team, empathy isn’t just a fluffy concept—it’s the secret to keeping your team productive and happy. When people feel they’re being heard and valued, it can do wonders for their productivity and happiness. 

On the flip side, if you don’t show empathy, it can seriously hurt morale and productivity. It’s especially true for remote teams, where it can be hard to gauge how your team members feel. And when it comes to letting someone go, empathy goes a long way. 

Without it, you may seem harsh or cold-hearted. Be the kind of person who knows how to give a respectful and compassionate send-off. 


Are you ready to build a thriving remote team culture?  

At Portfolio Creative, we’re here to guide you every step of the way. We know remote work is more than just emails and Zoom calls—it’s about cultivating a sense of empathy and understanding within your team. 

And if you’re looking for exceptional marketing and creative candidates to bridge that employment gap, your search ends here. Get in touch with us today! 


1. “Americans are embracing flexible work—and they want more of it.” McKinsey, 23 Jun. 2022,