Firing someone is not a nice task to complete. However skilfully you complete the task it can still be a shock to the individual concerned. I know, I have both fired and been fired myself. However, there are some easy and simple approaches to take to ensure that it goes as well as it possibly can and that the individual might even thank you at the end.
- Throughout the process remember that allowing someone to remain in a job that does not suit them and at which they are failing is the unkindest act a manager/business owner can complete. Individuals can become depressively stuck in a job that is clearly unsuitable for them or which they have outgrown. Even though it may not be explicitly stated the individual is failing they will know this as you indicate it in small communications, a sigh, a turning away, a set mouth. And slowly, over time this ongoing failure will begin to erode their confidence, self-esteem and the most damaging of all, their hope for a better future. Put the individual out of their misery; fire them and allow them to go into the future with the information needed to find a job better suited to their skills and interests.
- Remain confident, calm and objective at all times during the conversation. You are the leader in this conversation, it therefore falls to you to create the atmosphere in which it will be conducted. The easiest way to achieve this is to ensure that you are sitting upright with your shoulders relaxed, holding a firm yet gentle eye contact with the individual. Make the tone of the meeting curious and reflective aimed at exploring the point below.
- Ensure that the outcome of the conversation is for the individual to be both happy and successful in their job role. Think about it. If every person in your company were both happy and successful what would it be like? What results would you achieve? This puts both you and the individual firmly on the same ground and after the same positive outcome. Sometimes the results of these conversations are that the individual becomes re-energised and remains with you, sometimes they will realise they are not enjoying their job and resign and other times, for their own benefit, you will need to fire them.
- During the conversation do make your feedback, thoughts and perceptions explicit to them. We frequently don’t know how we come across to others; can you recall your own reactions if you have seen yourself videoed? Do not leave them in the dark. The last generous act you can complete when dismissing someone is to give them your honest and complete feedback. Present it as your thoughts, your perception, and advice. Know and respect that the individual does not have to take any of it on board but give it anyway. Particularly with young employees, they need this information if they are to approach work differently in the future and improve. Once again, offer this information with the intent of them becoming hugely successful in their future work.
- Thank them and acknowledge all the things that they are good at and have displayed a natural talent or passion for. Sadly this might not be what their current job role needs them to complete. If so, it is even more important that you are generous with your positive praise, information and appreciation. This does not in any way let them off delivering what is required right now, but it does give the message that although they may be failing in their current job you can see other areas where they naturally excel. In summary, you are giving complete and honest feedback.
Firing an individual is a key conversation. However approach the situation firmly, honestly, calmly and with the clear objective of gaining the best outcome for both them and yourself and things are likely to go well. Often people reflect back on situations where they were fired or made redundant as one of the positive turning points of their lives. Don’t let individuals fail in silence, speak up and fire them.
About Sue Ingram
Sue Ingram is Director of Converse Well and author of ‘Fire Well – How to fire staff so they thank you’. Sue has spent over 27 years working in HR and related fields. In 2000 she became one of the UK’s first Executive Coaches; she is an Honorary Teaching Fellow at Lancaster University where her workshop forms part of their International MBA program. Her workshop, How to Fire Staff so They Thank You has been delivered to over a 1000 managers in the both the private and public sectors.