The Right Way to Fire Someone
Youâ€™ve decided itâ€™s time to let the low performer on your team go. Youâ€™ve covered your bases in terms of documentation, and youâ€™ve coordinated with HR. But now you have to have the dreaded conversation. Whatâ€™s the best way to deliver the news? Who should be in the room with you? What do you say and not say? And how do you tell the rest of the team?
What the Experts Say
â€œFiring is the single most difficult thing we ask leaders to do,â€ according to Dick Grote, a management consultant in Dallas, Texas, and author ofÂ How to Be Good at Performance Appraisals. â€œEven when the business justification is clear, youâ€™re sitting down and telling someone that heâ€™s no longer getting a paycheck and that when he wakes up in the morning, he has no place to go. Thatâ€™s tough.â€ But firing is a necessary evil, says Jodi Glickman, author and founder of communication consulting firmÂ Great on the Job. â€œAs the manager, you have to bear in mind whatâ€™s right for the company.â€ You have to focus on the fact that â€œthe firing makes good business sense and hopefully is in the best interest of the person and your team going forward.â€ While it will never be easy to deliver bad news, here are some tips on how to manage the process.
Donâ€™t drag your feet
The prospect of firing someone youâ€™ve worked with for years â€”Â particularly someone you know well and respectÂ â€” is daunting, but you mustnâ€™t let your personal agony delay the conversation, says Glickman. â€œWhen the bad outweighs the good and when the employee is causing more problems than he or she is solving, itâ€™s time for that employee to go,â€ she says. Of course, firing should beÂ the final step in a fair and transparent processÂ that began long before the actual termination talk â€” and there should be a trail of paperwork to prove it. Even if the documentation process is cumbersome, stay focused. â€œManagers rarely regret acting too quickly on a termination, but they have regretted waiting too long,â€ says Grote. If youâ€™re still having trouble mustering the courage to act,Â think about your team. After all, theyâ€™re â€œthe ones who are picking up the slack and maybe working longer hours because the person [you need to fire] is not doing his job correctly.â€
Make HR your ally
Before you schedule the conversation, Grote suggests double-checking your plans with HR. â€œYouâ€™re not asking for permission â€” youâ€™re the boss; you make the decisions â€” but youâ€™re asking if thereâ€™s any reason you shouldnâ€™t go ahead with your plan to fire Louie on Tuesday morning,â€ he says. First, you want to ensure that an HR rep is able to attend the meeting, since itâ€™s legally practical and more comfortable to have someone else in the room. Second, the HR department can offer â€œa fuller pictureâ€ of the employeeâ€™s extenuating circumstances. â€œIn this litigious society, HR is your ally in filling in any blanks.â€ HR might tell you, for instance, that Louieâ€™s pension vests on Wednesday, so firing him Tuesday might be viewed as suspect in court. Or HR might tell you that Louieâ€™s wife starts cancer treatment on Monday afternoon, in which case firing him Tuesday could be seen as inhumane.
Keep it short
TheÂ words you use to terminate an employeeÂ should be simple and to-the-point.Â Donâ€™t waffle. â€œGo somewhere private and then lead with the punch line,â€ says Glickman. She suggests you begin by saying, â€œI have some bad news for you. Today is your last day here.â€ Then state the reason for termination in one simple sentence. â€œBe transparent,â€ she says. â€œWeâ€™ve let you go because you didnâ€™t meet your sales targetsâ€ or â€œYouâ€™ve not been a good cultural fit here.â€ Itâ€™s important to use the past tense because it â€œprecludes arguments about second chances,â€ says Grote. â€œThe plug has been pulled.â€ If the employee tries to argue or lashes out at you, tryÂ not to get caught up in responding. â€œItâ€™s a natural human thing to want to say â€˜Iâ€™m sorry,â€™â€ says Grote. But when it comes to firing a poor performer, he recommends couching your regret in terms where â€œpersonal responsibility lies squarely on the individual.â€ He suggests saying something like, â€œâ€˜Iâ€™m sorry that the situation has gotten to this point.â€™â€
Stay in the room
HR may be your ally, but you shouldnâ€™t expect it to do your dirty work. While some experts contend that you neednâ€™t say anything more or even remain in the room after the initial pronouncement, Grote vehemently disagrees. â€œLeadership demands compassion,â€ he says. â€œYou were the agent of a terrible thing that has just happened in this personâ€™s life. Donâ€™t run away, and donâ€™t force HR to pick up the pieces.â€ You should be prepared to â€œspeak as needed and answer questions as they come up.â€ Before the meeting, you need to be well versed on practical matters â€” the details of the former employeeâ€™s severance agreement, for instance, and what happens to his benefits and unused vacation time. Of course, there will always be issues you hadnâ€™t considered. If something comes up, Grote recommends saying, â€œLet me apologize, I hadnâ€™t thought of that,â€ and then turn it over to HR. But make no mistake: â€œThis is your baby.â€
Show compassion Firing may be a difficult chore for you, the manager, but for the person whoâ€™s being fired, itâ€™s downright traumatic. So empathize. â€œOffer to be helpful,â€ says Glickman. â€œIf you genuinely believe someone is a good person who has talents and abilities that could be useful elsewhere, tell her that youâ€™re very happy toÂ provide a reference, or offer to make introductions.â€ Grote suggests scheduling a termination at the end of the workday, bearing in mind office optics. After the conversation, he recommends saying, â€œLet me walk you back to your desk, where you can pick up your belongings, and then weâ€™ll both walk out of the office together like itâ€™s a normal day.â€ He adds, â€œItâ€™s showing your humanity.â€
Talk to your team After the person youâ€™ve fired has left, Glickman suggests gathering the colleagues affected by the termination to address the matter. â€œThe message should be direct and straightforward,â€ she says. Do not reveal reasons behind the decision â€” thatâ€™s confidential, and besides, â€œIt sets a bad precedent to badmouth a former employee.â€ Recognize that the office rumor mill is likely churning. Grote suggests this script: â€œAs some of you may already know, Diane is no longer part of the organization. I canâ€™t go into details because thatâ€™s confidential information and I want to ensure Dianeâ€™s privacy. If you have suggestions about how to minimize the impact of Dianeâ€™s absence, let me know.â€
If you think people will start to worry about their own jobs, you might assure them that the person was fired for cause, that the organization is not eliminating roles. You can also divulge a few details if you want to send a strong message to your team about the fired employeeâ€™s poor behavior. In this case, Grote recommends saying, â€œDianeâ€™s employment has been terminated. Iâ€™m not going to go into all the details, but I will say that Diane acted in violation of our sexual harassment policy. We do not tolerate that.â€
Focus on the future Terminating an employee is an emotionally draining task, but for the sake of your team, you mustnâ€™t wallow. â€œAt this point, itâ€™s about forward momentum,â€ says Glickman. â€œFocus on the now.â€ The firing likely presents short-term challenges for your team â€” namely more work. â€œSo itâ€™s up to you to come up with a strategy for how to manage the workload while you look for a replacement.â€ Acknowledge that thereâ€™s more work to do in the short term, but talk about a goal. â€œSay, â€˜Itâ€™s going to hurt for three months, but hereâ€™s the plan,â€™â€ she adds. â€œYou want to ruthlessly move forward on the future.â€
Principles to Remember
This information is derived from Harvard Business Review, written by Rebecca Knight â€“ February 05, 2016
Original post: https://hbr.org/2016/02/the-right-way-to-fire-someone