As a leader, there will come a day when you have to fire someone. It’s not pretty and certainly isn’t something that many people are comfortable doing. Unfortunately, I’ve had to do this several times and it never gets easier. Mostly it’s because we’re human and inherently, a lot of us want to see the good in everyone. We also don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. Yet, people underperform, everyday and people get fired, everyday. I’ll offer 5 ways to ease the process.
- Make sure you have given the person a chance. – Most organizations have some sort of discipline process. A progressive path that workers must go through before being fired. Unless the error is egregious enough, most employees get a chance to “walk the path”. The process should be designed to correct behaviors and offer assistance that will enhance the employees performance. You should be having conversations and actively helping this employee figure out what’s going wrong and how they can fix their behavior. This may even include “right-fitting” an employee. In other words, another job may fit their strength set better than their current situation. It will be tough (especially in represented sites) to fire someone without documentation of these actions. It is your duty as a leader to try and influence the individual toward a higher level of performance. But sadly there are some who just won’t get it.
- Be honest and direct. – The worst thing you can do is lie to an employee or beat around the bush and tip toe around their poor performance. I’ve seen bad employees work for years beyond what’s acceptable. These employees will eventually become someone else’s problem, as the can gets kicked further and further down the road. If you feel that lying is better, so you don’t hurt someone’s feelings, I would submit that you are not yet a good leader. You are hurting your organization and this individuals development, by paralyzing their growth with your silence.
- Get others in the boat. – A lot of us have others in our organization, like an HR department, that can assist with the decision to fire someone. Some companies form discipline review boards that are formed whenever their is tough disciplinary action needed. You are not alone and don’t have to make this decision by yourself, so don’t. This step ensures you take subjectivity out of the mix, by allowing third parties to examine the evidence before a final decision is made.
- Be timely. – Once you know it’s time to let them go and you’ve taken all the necessary steps, be swift. In the long run, it helps all parties. There is no need to drag it out.
- Don’t let their “future” worry you. – It may sound harsh, but you have to seperate the fact that they are a nice person and base your decision on performance. Believe me, if they end up living under a bridge because you fired them, keeping them at the job would not have saved them from this fate. It’s only a matter of time. In other words, they aren’t living under the bridge because you fired them, their under the bridge because of their personal choices.
Honestly, when you fire someone, it won’t be a surprise to them if you do it right.
The reason some of us are apprehensive is because the person is nice and we don’t want to hurt them. Actually, keeping them on while they are underperfoming is the worst thing you can do. By trying to save their feelings, we may be slowly leading them to their own destruction.
Besides that, the fact that you’ve given them a lot of chances and followed the process should help you sleep at night. They have a free will, just like you. If they choose to not take the help offered, what more can you do?
As a leader, you don’t really fire anyone, they fire themselves.