Letting someone go is never easy. The decision is hard and emotional one. 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. 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 integrity and compassion, so you can move forward with ease. 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. 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.
- 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. 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, all helpful “reasons” escape us in the moment. Write down a few, concise points in case you need them.
- Sleep on it and start a new day. Expect that you may have an emotionally yucky evening. It’s your humanity having compassion that another person had a hard day. Don’t take it to heart that you did something wrong, you most definitely did them a favor. They may not be able to see it at in this moment. Instead, check how you feel the next morning. More often than not, you will feel like this business owner we just helped through this process:
“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.