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January 12, 2017

Cindy Penchina, President

How to Fire SomeoneLet’s be honest, firing isn’t fun, and cutting off the income that someone has come to rely on is certainly no easy feat.

But if a team member is unable to do the work they were hired for, not holding up their end of the bargain, and/or jeopardizing the success of other team members, it’s time to cut them loose.

Let’s take a look at some firing tactics that will help make an uncomfortable situation as painless as possible.

Start with a Warning

If you’re considering firing an employee, do your best to ensure that the person isn’t completely blindsided if/when you decide to pull the trigger. Take the employee aside, explain that you’re unhappy with their performance, and give them a set period of time, such as a month, to turn things around.

This is advisable for two reasons – it can clue them into something they may not have been aware of, and it can give them an opportunity to improve. Remember, it’s generally easier to train an existing staff member than it is to hire again from scratch.

Don’t Let a Bad Hire Fester

However, if the warning period is up and there have been no significant improvements, prepare to cut the cord. Keeping a bad hire on your team is akin to neglecting an illness; the longer you let it fester, the worse things get. And while you should always give all of your employees a fair chance at the job, you also need to be willing to say goodbye when things aren’t working.

The best thing you can do is look at the situation as objectively as possible and recognize that if an employee is causing more problems than they’re solving, that’s a good indication it’s time to part ways.

Know Your Next Move in Advance

Before you pull the trigger with a fire, you should always know your next move. Start by asking yourself some important questions:

  • Will you keep this position and rehire, or will you do away with it altogether?
  • If you’re keeping the position, do you plan to rehire right away or will you wait?
  • Is there someone else on the team who can pick up this person’s tasks until someone new is hired?

Having the answers to these sorts of questions before you make things official is to your benefit; the last thing you want is to be short an employee with no plan for handling the workload they’ve left behind.

Show Compassion, but Leave Emotion at the Door

Your decision to fire should be based on rational motives, and it’s not the time to get emotional.

That being said, if firing is difficult and uncomfortable for you, just imagine how the person on the other side of the table is feeling. While you should do your best to remain rational and objective, it’s perfectly acceptable (and preferable) to show compassion toward the employee. After all, this shouldn’t be positioned as a personal attack or even a comment on the person’s character, but a business decision that has your company’s best interests at heart.

Try being helpful, such as by offering to be a reference, or to help make introductions. You never want to burn any bridges, and it’s always best to leave things off on as positive a note as possible to avoid unnecessary conflict and leave your reputation intact.

Keep Your Team in the Loop

Once everything is said and done, be sure to loop the rest of your team in as to what’s going on and put their minds at ease.

Keep in mind that there may be some additional tension around the office until things settle back into a routine again and a “new normal” is reached. Your team members may worry about who will pick up the slack, when you’ll be hiring again, and may even question the security of their own position.

This is the perfect opportunity to reassure your existing staff, and reinforce that their contributions to the company are appreciated. Keep the language future-focused and discuss your plan of action for the company moving forward. This will help to ease any worried minds and keep your team focused on what’s ahead.

Although things may seem challenging in the moment, trust that your staff will pull together to get things done, and it will make your team stronger in the long run.