Firing staff is a part of the job of being a manager. It is not the most enjoyable part – but it is most definitely an essential part. Yet many managers fear firing people. After all, the task is often known as a ‘having a difficult conversation’ and who would seek out a difficult conversation?
Unsurprisingly, managers sub-consciously avoid difficult conversations. But, according to Sue Ingram, author of ‘FIRE WELL – How to fire staff so they thank you’ the sad truth of the situation is that if you cannot face firing your staff you simply cannot manage them.
Your staff will know that you are avoiding the situation and as a consequence the power will pass from you to them. They now hold all the cards and the worst type of employee will exploit the situation. Slowly over a period of time the manager gains the strong conviction that their team no longer listens to them. The staff will have lost all respect for their manager. Consequently any good or ambitious staff will leave in order to find a manager they do respect.
But it does not have to be this way.
‘Difficult conversations’ need not be difficult. Most poor performing staff have not consciously set out to behave in this way. Something happened and slowly, over time, they fell into a behaviour that now works against them, their team and the organisation. When the manager does speaks up and works with the individual to solve the problem it is not only for the benefit of the organisations but also for the benefit of the individual themselves.
Once they know how exactly how they are behaving and showing up they can change, improve and become happier and more successful in their work. This could be within their current job role or it might only be achieved by leaving and moving elsewhere. But the most important thing is that they personally become more fulfilled and more successful in their work.
Think for a moment what the world would be like if every person in it were happy and doing their work really well? Ingram believes that achieving this result is easy, though it does take initial planning and thought:
- Find someone to support you throughout, for example, an HR representative or an experienced manager
- Gather evidence of the key aspect of the individual’s performance that needs to be changed. You need clear examples that you can draw upon
- Note what the individual does really well and where their natural talents and enthusiasms lie. This is important and should also be shared during the conversation
- Hold the conversation being calm, open minded, respectful and be very clear in your communication throughout. Give them your respect – and thereby earn the right for respect in return
- Introduce topics as ‘my perception is…’ followed by your evidence.
- Be truthful and balanced in your feedback. Also remember to acknowledge what they are doing right
- Have the whole purpose and process of the conversation be to ensure that the individual is in the right job for them and that they receive the clear feedback needed to be successful. Make sure they recognise that you are actually on their side.
Firing people is part of a manager’s job role. It’s imperative that a manager feels able to talk to staff about their performance, and is willing to fire them if that’s the best outcome for all concerned. These are not ‘difficult conversations’ if they are approached in the right way – in fact they can be done easily and for the benefit of everyone; the team, the organisation and, most, importantly the individual themselves.
About Sue Ingram
Sue Ingram is author of ‘Fire Well, how to fire staff so they thank you’ and founder of Converse Well, a training company which provides workshops for managers in how and what to say when managing and firing staff. www.conversewell.com
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.