Thursday, April 3, 2008

Firing People Sucks

I had to fire someone today and while I felt horrible last night and this morning I feel much better now. I always feel better after it's over, and in this case I actually really feel better because the person did some things after the firing that led me to believe that they were even more of a bad employee than I had initially thought.


If you're like me (and like most HR people and managers) firing people will always suck, but, you can do a few things to make it suck a little less.

  • Make sure it's not a surprise. If someone has ongoing performance issues you should have already mentioned it to them. They shouldn't hear about it for the first time at their termination meeting.

  • If it is a surprise it should only be because they've done something really bad or are horribly clueless. Some people are really clueless, and there is nothing you can do about it. These are the people who don't understand why they are being fired for assaulting someone because it was only the first time.

  • Leave out the emotion, i.e. don't make it about you. Sure you feel bad, but they feel worse. You don't want to have to do it, and believe me they don't want you to. Telling them how you "didn't want to have to make this decision", or how you "really thought they were a great employee, but..." only serves to make you feel better about what you're doing, but I guarantee it does not make them feel that way. It makes them confused, after all, if you don't want to do it and they've been a great employee, why are you firing them?

  • Don't waver. Don't argue. Once you've come to the point that you are going to fire someone the decision should be final. It should not be up for discussion so you shouldn't entertain the person by giving them false hope that they can talk you into changing your mind. Don't argue about the facts either, it will only frustrate you and throw you off of your game, and if you're arguing with the type of employee I mention in item 2, you won't win, so you might as well not try.

  • Do not get angry. The decision you've made is a business decision, not a personal one. You are in control of the situation so you have nothing to be angry about.
  • Be organized and prepared.Even though you don't want the person you're firing working for you anymore, the way you fire them still matters. Treat them with dignity and respect, and have everything organized and prepared. Have all your final paperwork ready, their check available, and any escorts prepared. They may spread horrible rumors about your company anyway (some of them may actually be true) but you don't want to make them more angry by being unprepared and disrespectful.

There are tons of other firing tips I could think of, but right now I'm too drained to do so. If I've missed any feel free to let me know in my comments section.

1 comment:

cemoore said...

Unfortunately, you forgot the most important tip:
Spit on Them.

We learned in the 70's from Steve Martin that when you break up with a girl, you throw dog poop on her shoes. Spitting on an employee you are about to fire is the logical extension of this tried and true strategy.

Great article!