How to fire someone

    No matter how perfect your interview process is, there will always be occasions when you have to let someone go. This is an extremely difficult process and most people usually find that they wait too long, or create an experience that is much worse than it could have been.

    Let's discuss this difficult topic and how to ensure this process is as considerate as possible.


    It's your fault, not theirs

    First, change your perspective. Firing someone for performance or fit is the rectification of your mistake. 

    You selected their resume, you interviewed them, you decided they were the right person, you trained them, and you mentored them.

    You made the decision that they would fit the organization and you turned out to be wrong. Perhaps you hired too senior (or too junior), perhaps you weren't sure what you actually needed, or perhaps you didn't give them the tools to improve.

    Note that we are not talking about the people who are simply bad.. Take an internal locus of control, and take responsibility.

    Remember, that person can share their experiences.


    The firing meeting

    Let's not sugarcoat this. It's going to be devastating for them whether they know it's coming or not. It doesn’t matter if the person you are firing was the worst employee in the world. Be empathetic, always.

    This may feel forced but remember that empathy isn’t relative. (I like this person less than my team and I never treat my team this well). The first step is to ensure you don’t come into the meeting with some of the ill-feeling that has no doubt built up in your association with that person. Remember the above, that it is as much your fault as theirs.

    • Bring a representative to HR to the meeting
    • Inform them that “this will be a difficult conversation. You will likely feel sadness, anger and fear”.
      • The goal is to label the emotions up front which will help remove the sting of the emotions that will t arise during this meeting. It’s a minor point but it helps the person emotionally
    • Get to the point quickly. “I am letting you go”
      • Do not use we. This is a time when you are taking responsibility and not hiding behind the company as tempting as that is
    • Inform them that “This decision is final”
      • These meetings can often descend into bargaining meetings whereby the person may feel like this can be morphed into a warning. They may promise to be better, or try and argue against your reasons. Do not be pulled into this discussion, the fact that you are in the meeting means that the person has crossed an uncrossable line or has been through a performance review (and didn’t change).
    • Provide the reasons, “This is why”
      • You can give a few examples verbally but do not provide those examples in a written form
      • Outline your culpability in the matter and shoulder some of the responsibilities
    • Provide support: “Here is what I’d like to do to help you”
      • If you are happy to help them find their next role, let them know. Will this be sharing their CV (maybe you already have one)
      • How much severance and benefits are they receiving?
      • I am giving you ___ months severance, which they will receive upon …
        • Transferring key information back to the company
        • Signing your offboarding documents
    • Transactional items
      • If it's their last day, give them the freedom of the day to say bye to the people they care about
      • Ensure the offboarding documentation is ready
      • Outline the duties expected
    • Repeat the initial question. “I imagine that you are feeling anger, and fear right now?”
      • Then let the person speak. They may have nothing to say, they may have a lot, but just let them speak and listen. Remember, you may no longer be colleagues but you are both humans.


    Announcing to the company/relevant people

    • Small companies, should inform everyone of the departure
    • As you become larger,  the person's line manager should inform their team and that person’s colleagues
      • Schedule 1-1s for each relevant person once you’ve announced the departure. Give the direct individuals time to be heard
    • When you make the announcement, DO NOT blame or criticize the person:
      • Toxic employees: If they were toxic, their team already knows why this person was let go. False praise looks terrible, as will a genuine call out to the reasons behind the termination. Here, keep the message short and sweet. “Person x has left the company. I’ve thanked them for their contributions and wish them well in their next role”
      • Praise the person's contributions to the company, and take responsibility for the situation, and explain what you are doing to ensure it doesn't happen again.


    Other things

    • If you promise to help that person find the next job - actually follow through. Talk is cheap and, believe me, a false attempt at softening the blow will come back to bite you
    • Offer to send a message of recommendation if the candidate gets past a first-round interview at a company. Use LinkedIn to discover who you know at that company.
    • If financially possible, provide a severance package that gives them enough time to find another job and have the pay begin realistically. This package is two months minimum, but more realistically, three months or more.
    • And then turn to your recruiting, training, and managing processes, and ask yourself: "What can I do to make sure this doesn't happen again?"