Last weekend I spent time with a few old friends catching up over beers and BBQ, basking in the summer heat. It was backyard living at its finest! As is often the case, we got chatting about work and how everyone was doing. One friend was struggling with the reality of having to let someone go at his office. As a new manager, he hadn’t encountered this before and was receiving little guidance from his superiors. The employee in question was not a bad person, but had not been delivering on expectations and it was negatively affecting performance (as well as team dynamics).
This article will outline key things to remember when you are letting someone go for the first time. Each organization/jurisdiction will have it’s own approach and laws, so always connect with your HR partners to follow your company’s process. What I am outlining here are elements to help you manage the narrative in your own head, as this situation can be mentally and emotionally challenging.
1. You’re just doing your job. Part of managing people involves the unfortunate task of delivering bad news. That’s part what you get paid to do.
2. The employee is responsible for their performance. Even with good coaching and clear direction, sometimes people just aren’t a good fit. You’ve likely given them ample opportunity to turn things around and you haven’t seen any improvement. You cannot bear full responsibility for this situation.
3. Long term, you are helping them. Anyone who’s ever been fired knows that while it’s shocking and difficult to digest, longer term its often for the best. As the manager, you are clearing the path for their next opportunity which may be exactly what’s needed. You likely care deeply about your people – and realize this decision has impact for the employee and their family right now. Just know that in the longer term, it is best for everyone.
4. Talk it out. Don’t go through this process alone, find your HR partner, your manager, or a friend with experience to help you map this out. Be empathetic. Practice what you will say. Get some rest the night before. Arrive early. Preparation builds confidence.
5. It sucks – be ok with it. Ultimately, firing someone is hard. You lose sleep, anxiety levels rise, worrying escalates – none of which change the outcome. Accept the hard truth for what it is, and meet it head on.