Hands down, the hardest part of my job is letting an employee go. Even the word “fire” makes people cringe and lower their eyes. But as any business leader knows, sometimes, the right thing to do for the company is to dismiss an employee. It is, after all, pretty common. Forty percent of Americans have lost a job, according to a recent Harris poll. So how can you make the dreaded process go smoothly, both for the employee and the person doing the firing? By doing it respectfully. A study of nearly 20,000 employees around the world from Harvard Business Review and Tony Schwartz found that being treated with respect was the most critical thing they wanted from their employer. They ranked it higher than recognition and appreciation, providing useful feedback or opportunities for learning, growth and development. This respect should extend to when things aren’t working out. Here are my four strategies for terminating a contract with compassion and integrity.