4 Tips for Letting an Employee Go the Right Way

By Bryan Orr

While working at a large corporation, one of the jobs that was in my management role was hiring and firing employees. I enjoyed interviewing and getting a good feel for a prospective hire, but no matter how many times I was responsible for letting an employee go, it always felt unpleasant and difficult.

Now that I run my own business, the firing process has become even more personal and emotional as it is more directly related to me. With some thought and experience, I have come to grips with the process and though it’s never fun, there are ways to make the best of the not-so-great circumstances we are forced to deal with.

1. Hire with an Understood “Try-Out” Period

When hiring a new employee, have a standard “try-out” period (I set a 90 day try-out period). Clarify specific expectations in written and verbal form and make an agreement beforehand. Unless something extreme comes up, allow that standard time for them to get into their groove and for other team members to adjust and work with the new hiree.

Pretty quickly you start to get a feel for whether they’re a good fit or not. If you sense that the fit isn’t right, mentally prepare to let them go and not extend past that 90 days. If you plan on letting them go, it’s in their best interest to communicate that as efficiently as possible so that they can move on and start looking elsewhere. Don’t hold on longer than necessary because of emotional attachment or fear of confrontation.

2. Be Honest About Your Reasons

The temptation is great to make up a story as to why you’re having to let someone go. You may try to soften the blow by being less direct and act is if it is out of your control. The truth is, when you’re letting someone go it should be for a specific reason(s).

Take some thought as to what it is and how you can kindly, but truthfully, communicate what the reason is. Say for instance the new hiree shows a lazy strain and isn’t driven enough for the task at hand. The word “lazy” doesn’t need to be used, but say something akin to: “The levels of your productivity do not match the need for the task at hand.”

Although it’s direct and may be difficult to swallow, it’s the truth and will also give the other person an opportunity to recognize that in future job endeavors he/she could think about what you’ve said and hopefully form new habits going forward.

3. Go Ahead and Blame Yourself a Little

A mixture of things happen when we’re responsible for letting a person go. We tend to either make up fake reasons so that we don’t hurt others’ feelings, or make it entirely about the other person which may cause a lot of personal hurt.

The truth is, the decision you’re making is based on how you feel and think about the situation, so go ahead and throw some self blame in. Not in a negative or pitiful way, but in a humble way. For example, “I would have liked for this to work out, but because of certain processes I have in place, I don’t feel this works well for my organization.”

You are still valuing the PERSON in front of you, it’s just a matter of circumstances that don’t line up well to keep him/her on board.

4. Have a Quick Meeting with Other Employees

Make it a priority to communicate with other employees when you’ve let another team member go. Be straightforward but not overly detailed in communicating that Tom or Carol didn’t work out.

It’s very common that if you’re not transparent with other team members, they will discuss among themselves why somebody was fired. Assumptions will be made and unnecessary judgement may be passed. They will know enough information that they don’t have to make wild guesses about Tom and it will lessen the tendency to discuss undue fears for their own jobs.

From personal experience, how has being let go affected you?

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Bryan Orr
Bryan Orr is a blue collar business owner who helps executives and business owners use storytelling to communicate powerfully with customers and staff. Bryan is a founder of an award-winning small business in Orlando, Fl as well as sought after podcast producer and consultant. Get to know him at Bryanorr.com.

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