Letting someone go is never easy. The decision is hard enough. Pulling the trigger leaves most business owners (or team leaders) with a queasy stomach and the jitters. Even the most hardened entrepreneur tends to hide behind indifference or a gruff exterior. Because most business owners take very seriously their responsibility to provide a livelihood to their employees. In fact, we have many sleepless nights about it.
The “not a good fit” or “just isn’t working out” situations are the hardest to terminate because they are somewhat subjective and there is no clear right or wrong. It’s mostly gut instinct, with some evidence to support it.
Here are a few suggestions to help you fire with compassion, so you can move forward without feeling like you are dragging the negativity with you. After all, that’s why you are letting the person go.
- Do it first thing in the morning. A lot of people tend to wait until the end of the day, either to allow the person to avoid having to walk out past the rest of the team or because they feel weird having the person get dressed and drive into work just to get let go. Well, they are going to feel weird anyways. And so are you, probably. So tackle it first thing. Not only will you avoid a day full of anxiety, which will affect your client meetings and productivity, but others will feel awful having to fake it in their interactions with someone who is about to get fired. I remember once I knew a co-worker was being let go at the end of the day, and during lunch she was showing me the gym she was joining. In my head I was saying, “NO! Don’t do it! You are about to lose your job!” Just get it over with.
- Decide in advance what severance pay, if any, you are providing them and any details about bonuses they may have earned and when benefits like health insurance end. Write it down so you don’t get fuzzy on the details, which can happen in an emotional conversation. If possible, have a check ready for whatever pay they are due. You want to decide these things in advance, not in the heat of the moment, and you certainly don’t want to have to “think about it” and get back to them later.
- Write down a few key points as to why you are letting them go, particularly if it’s one of those more subjective reasons like “not a good fit.” Some people won’t ask – they will either be surprised, or more than likely embarrassed or relieved, and will just say OK. But some people will ask for further explanation. And in emotional conversations, sometimes all helpful thoughts run out of our heads. So write down a few, concise points in case you need them.
- What if you really don’t have concrete reasons? It happens, more often than not. Your gut is just telling you it isn’t working out, but it’s hard to put your finger on an identifiable reason. If this is the case, stand firm on your gut instinct. Tell the person it’s hard to quantify – it’s more an overall impression and you just don’t feel it is a good fit. Then move right into your wrap-up about how she will receive pay, when she can leave, etc.
- Sleep on it and start a new day. Expect that you may have an emotionally yucky evening. It’s just your humanity having compassion that another person had a hard day. Don’t take it to heart that you did something wrong. Instead, check how you feel the next morning. More often than not, you will feel like this business owner who we just helped:
“I do feel better today. Yesterday my stomach was fluttery all day! I’ve fired many, many people over the years, but that one was particularly hard because I couldn’t tell her exactly why. No regrets. She’ll find a job that is a better fit for her personality.”
And she probably will find a job that is a better fit, and you will find a team member who is a better fit. You aren’t doing anyone any favors keeping the wrong person on the team.
If you need help with the decision to fire, or with hiring the “right-fit person,” let us help.
by Laney Lyons-Richardson
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net