Even the biggest and best companies make a bad hire once in a while. At some point in your business life, you are absolutely going to have to make the call to let someone go. It never gets easier, but it is a necessity of running your own business.
Yet, even when it is painfully obvious that someone has to go, many of us still struggle with making that call, and importantly, carrying it out.
You can read all the articles you like about firing someone, but if you’re only concerning yourself with the awkward confrontation, you’ve lost the battle from the outset. In order to make firing much easier, you need to do some groundwork before crunch time arrives. We’ve listed five critical questions that you need to answer before you sit down with an employee who just has to go.
Why do they have to go?
During a termination meeting, just about every employee will hit you with the “why” question. Some might argue that you have no duty to answer it. On the other hand, you’re drastically changing this person’s life – some level of explanation is only fair.
However, that doesn’t mean that the termination meeting is the place to do it. When you’re firing an employee, they should know exactly why. If you’ve made consistent efforts to improve their performance and provided clear targets, and they’ve failed, they should be aware of the fact.
Sometimes, it won’t be that cut and dry. In those cases, it can be best to follow up with the employee after they are fired. Either way, you need to understand why you’re firing them, and what your next step is after they’re gone.
When is the right time?
Don’t wait for the “perfect time”. There’s no such thing. The right time to fire someone is when you’ve finalised the decision to do so, and prepared for their departure.
Putting off the event of firing someone is toxic for the work environment. What if you need to invent excuses to not involve them in projects? What if other employees are starting to get the idea that employee is out the door, and you hold off for a significant amount of time after that? They’ll never know if they’re in your sights.
How will you tell others?
A critical aspect of letting an employee go is explaining that decision to the rest of the company. Sure, you’re the boss, and you may feel that you don’t have to justify your actions.
However, it’s important to ensure that a firing doesn’t have a negative effect on organisation morale. Don’t let employees assume the worst – let them know what happened any why. Frame your decision as one made for the overall benefit of the business.
Most importantly, show some respect for the ousted employee – their friends are still working for you.
What if you’re wrong?
Once you’ve made the decision that an employee needs to go, it can be difficult to turn back. If your original choice was justified and further validated by that employee’s ongoing behaviour, there is no room for “wrong”.
It’s never easy to let someone go. However, you can’t allow guilt or incorrect attributions of fault to hold you back from following through on what is ultimately a sound decision.
They’re gone – now what?
When you fire someone, you have to charge ahead. There must be a clear direction set for the rest of the team, with goals and timelines to achieve them.
Any transition period may be awkward, particularly if the team member was well liked. It’s up to you to step up, take up any slack left by that team member, and ensure that everyone’s eyes are on the horizon.
Once you’ve let someone go, review the process. Sit down and write it down. Take note of improvements you can make next time to make the entire situation run more smoothly.
Additionally, be ready for your employees to approach you. Whenever someone is let go, employees tend to think about their own futures, and what’s in it for them if they stay with the organisation. Be prepared with reassurances and plans to keep them busy.