As a small business owner, you are the jack of all trades. That means you are the boss, the bookkeeper, the marketer, the hirer and unfortunately, the firer. You are dealt the unpleasant task of firing an employee. The truth is, firing an employee is something we all dread. Whatever the reason for termination may be, no one likes doing it — even if the employee totally deserves it.
Although we all agree it is hard on you (the person doing the terminating), it is even harder on the employee (the person getting terminated). It’s vital for you as a business owner to put your own feelings aside and try to put yourself into the shoes of the employee. Imagine you were the one being fired. What would make it easier for you? How would you want the message to be conveyed?
Make it as painless as possible, but you still have to get to the point. You owe your employee a face-to-face conversation. Be sure to schedule an in-person meeting (or at least a phone call) to deliver the news.
Although each experience of firing an employee is unique, there are some general rules you can follow to help you and your employee get through the interaction relatively unscathed.
Here are a few practices of what NOT to do when you fire an employee:
Drag Out Your Explanation
Don’t beat around the bush. Start the conversation with the bad news, explain your reasoning and provide any additional instructions or necessary information. The conversation does not need to be long. In fact, keeping it short is probably a better idea.
You don’t want to prolong the conversation because that will just leave more time for you to get into an argument or say something you regret. Even if your employee pushes back, you are the decision maker and the decision you made is non-negotiable. You have decided to fire them for a reason, so state that and be done. Engaging in back and forth arguing is unnecessary.
You also don’t want to sound like a broken record by repeating all the mistakes your employee has made. Have a clear message and state it. If your employee refuses to accept your decision, repeat your message and end the conversation. Continuing the conversation won’t help either party, it will just further insult their skills or work ethic and pour salt in their already irritated wound.
Be Deceptive About the Reason For Termination
Would you rather be told you're bad at your job or that your company can't afford to keep you? Of course we all prefer the latter. It’s much easier to tell an employee they’re being let go due to downsizing or layoffs, but the truth is that will only hurt them in the end.
Be upfront and straightforward about the reason you are firing an employee. It may be hard to hear, but learning what they are doing wrong will help them in the long run.
Provide a clear record of the employee’s behavior and performance. Pull the employee's performance evaluation (which should be in the analytics report in your CRM software). Prior to the meeting, pinpoint reasons for the termination and explain them — showing your employee that your decision is final.
There is no need for you to apologize or soften the message. At the end of the day, they are being fired for a reason and it was because of something they did wrong. It is supposed to feel bad. For example:
You should NOT say:
"We have decided to go in a different direction, we have to let you go."
You should say:
"I have to let you go because you haven’t met any of your monthly quotas for the past 6 months."
Make it About You or Get Emotional
Avoid the phrase:"This is really hard for me."
Yes, I’m sure it is hard for you, but it's even worse for your employee. No matter what way you try to frame it, you are not the one being fired — having your livelihood ripped away from you. As the business owner, it’s important that you don’t turn the conversation and try to get sympathy from the person you are firing. Keep all emotions out of it.
Try to be as objective as possible. Yes, firing an employee is stressful, upsetting and even nerve racking, but it is your responsibility to stay composed and collected. You have to keep your emotions in check. When people get emotional, we tend to ramble on, spitting out unnecessary or even untrue information. This will never end well.
Chances are the employee being fired already knows (or has a vague idea) why they’re being fired. Don’t dwell on it or try to make it about you. Be straightforward and get to the point to minimize the damages.
Compare Your Employee to His/Her Coworker
Comparing your employees is never a good idea. I mean never. Saying something like:
"Well Al, who has only been here for a few months, did a much better job than you and closed way more so deals so that’s why you’re being let go."
Please don’t make this mistake. Bringing in the performance of another employee is unwarranted and unnecessary. It will shift the conversation in the wrong direction by calling attention to coworkers and guiding it away from the employee in question. The conversation should be focused around the employee being fired and only their performance.
In this situation, a simple explanation of their low productivity and inadequate sales will suffice. You should reference previous performance goals and the employees consistent inability to meet them — this is perfectly acceptable grounds for termination.
The Walk of Shame
Chances are, the employee being fired will be upset and embarrassed and that is completely normal. Just because they are flustered doesn't mean they will make a scene or need assistance leaving the building. Ask them to gather their belongings, meet you out front and head out.
Forcing a terminated employee to take the walk of shame out of the business with a security guard or escorting them out yourself is an unnecessary and humiliating step. Of course, there are circumstances that call for these extreme precautions, but as a general rule, allow them to exit on their own terms.
It's good practice to meet them at the door, thank them for their time, wish them luck moving forward and provide all the necessary termination/next steps paperwork they may need.
It's true, firing an employee is never fun, and that wont change — but avoiding these mistakes will make it as painless as possible.