Jeff Whittle – How To Fire An Employee You Like With Respect & Honesty

So, you’ve come to the point where you asking how to fire an employee. You know it isn’t what you want, because you like the person. Maybe you aren’t 100% decided and maybe you know you should but can’t. Whatever the case, you’re causing unnecessary stress for yourself. If you aren’t sure what to do our how to do it, follow this quick guide.

Share Expectations & Realities

Don’t get worked up about firing an employee first. Before you do that, it’s important to open lines of honest communication

This person probably has a way of doing their job that they are fairly set it, especially if they have worked at the company for a long time. If you have an issue with their way of doing things, it’s your responsibility as a leader to discuss that issue.

Start this process by sharing your expectations with the employee. Be objective and measurable. Tell them exactly what you need them to accomplish in a week, going so far as to define exact quotas they should be hitting. This may sound harsh. But, I recommend you do this for all employees, not just ones you are dissatisfied with. This is how you establish clarity around what a “good employee” looks like.

Approach this conversation from a “what we need from you” perspective, not a “what you’re doing wrong” perspective.

If, however, the employee doesn’t meet those quotas, schedule a second meeting. Explain the expectations again, and compare those to the reality. Help the employee understand how you aren’t getting what you need from them.

Give Them Opportunity To Improve

After you share expectations and compare realities, give them time to grow. Firing someone is never a good thing. It causes chaos and morale issues, even when it’s deserved. Besides, everyone deserves a chance.

When you finish sharing expectations and realities with the employee, establish a timeline. You can tell them or keep it to yourself. That depends on your leadership style. But, it’s important that you have a defined deadline. When you hit that deadline, you reevaluate your decision to keep them or let them go. 

If you don’t have a defined deadline, this process can drag on and on. Putting a definite stop date on it gives the employee clarity. And, you get peace of mind knowing that the situation has a clear next step.

Ask What Is Best For The Company

If, after the deadline passes, the employee hasn’t shown enough improvement, you have to ask what’s best for the company. Firing an employee isn’t easy, especially if you like the person. Heck, in my years of working as an EOS® Implementer, I’ve seen teams that have worked together for decades have to fire someone. 

But, the company comes first. The dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people that work there depend on the company. When one person isn’t pulling their weight, it puts the whole collective at risk. Good leaders understand that no single person is more important than the team. It’s a tired cliche, but a pretty accurate one.

So, if you know you should fire someone, but are struggling with how it will affect them, ask how not firing the employee will affect the entire organization. Be honest, be brave, and be objective.  

Never Use The F Word

Obviously I don’t mean THE F word. You should use that all the time.

But, never use the word “fire” with the employee. Right now I’m using it, because you don’t have time for pleasantries. You have more important things on your mind. But, it’s important to be respectful of your team member, even when you’re firing an employee. 

If you do decide to fire an employee, frame this choice in a way that isn’t shameful. Getting fired sucks. It can have a real and lasting impact on someone’s sense of self worth. And, while I am a proponent of honesty and being up front, there are ways to do that without also making someone feel like crap. Language is a powerful thing. And, the word “fired” comes with some pretty heavy connotations. You’d be surprised how much more positively people react to being “let go” than they do being “fired”. It’s a tiny change, but one that can seriously impact how they view the experience.

If you really like this person, or if you are just a good person in general, you don’t want them to be hurt by this. The truth is, firing someone is more often about helping them than anything else because it can…

Empower Them To Pursue New Opportunities

Talk about a cliche that rings true.

when you fire someone for the right reasons you are truly empowering them. If someone is bad enough at their job to deserve being fired, it probably means they are at the wrong job. Lots of people just get stuck where they land. They’re miserable doing something that brings them no joy, and they don’t like it enough to get good at it.

Firing someone really can be empowering to the employee. But, only if you help them. When you do let someone go, take every opportunity to get them into a position that is a better fit. Write a letter of recommendation and bring it to the meeting. Give them a killer review on LinkedIn. Help them take a step in the right direction. 

Unless they are just an awful person. If they are just that awful, don’t help them at all.

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