Letting someone go is never fun, and never comfortable. Whether you’re letting someone go due to a downsizing or other organizational change outside of their control, or if it’s a firing for cause or performance issues, it sucks for both sides.
No matter what the circumstances, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. I fundamentally believe that no matter the cause or reason for the firing, it can be done with dignity, grace and respect for the individual getting the bad news.
Letting people go Here are a few of the best practices and approaches I prefer.
Remember the scene in the movie Moneyball when Jonah Hill’s character has to tell a young prospect he’s been traded? He’s coached by Billy Beane not to start with a rambling explanation and rationale, but to be direct, quick and professional. If you have to let someone go, make that the first thing you say. I’m sorry to do this, but we have to let you go. You have options for how to handle the discussion from there, but starting direct I find is always best.
Be honest & transparent
You don’t need to go into a lot of detail, but I find the more honest you can be in that brief discussion, the more professionally the other side will take the news. If they feel like you’re hiding something, that’s where & when it can get ugly.
If you’re firing for cause, it shouldn’t come as a surprise
That’s what performance reviews and regular 1:1 meetings w their manager (which is probably you) should come in. If they just aren’t getting the job done, there should have been plenty of examples and discussions about that previous to the day they were let go. If it was still a surprise to the employee, you might take a look at how effectively you’re giving feedback & coaching to help employees improve before they need to leave.
There’s absolutely no reason someone losing their job should be shoved out into the cold with no support whatsoever. Can someone in your HR team look over their resume to make sure it reads well? Are there other resources outside of the company you could share with them, or introduce them to? This isn’t exactly a soft landing given the news you’ve just delivered, but I find even small offers like this can show a level of grace and supportiveness that’s appreciated.
Minimize the embarrassment factor
Try not to fire someone in front of everybody else. Try to schedule the firing “meeting” at a time when others might not be around (early in the day or later). Let the individual quickly get their immediate belongings (jacket, purse, etc.) and allow them to schedule time with you to come back later (when nobody is around) to finish packing up other personal effects. It might string things out a bit, but it’s the better thing to do.
This isn’t meant to be the complete handbook, but I’ve found these five best practices go a long way. Curious what some of your best practices and tips have been along the way.