If you go into management, chances are pretty good that at some point you’re going to fire someone. Maybe the fit isn’t right, the work quality isn’t there, the mistakes have added up, or the business focus is changing. Regardless, it’s AWFUL.
Here’s what not to do…..and I’ve seen each of these mistakes made up close, and made a number of them myself:
Make it about you: Don’t go on about how awful this makes you feel. Of course it does. You will feel bad (unless you’re a psychopath); you may feel sick. But no matter how badly you feel, the person you’re firing feels worse. Your emotions are very secondary, and spending time on how YOU feel while you’re firing the person is way off-base.
Wait until Friday at 5pm. Many people want to put this off as long as they possibly can. But waiting until the bitter end of a week leaves the person you’re firing without a lot of cushion to ask questions, confer with HR or catch their breath before heading home.
Fire someone while they’re on vacation, or the day of their son’s graduation, or the evening before their kids go back to school, or 18 minutes before you have the announcement tee’ed up to go out. I’ve seen each of these. Is the firing so urgent that you need to do it without consideration of the person’s personal circumstances?
Forget that this is one of the worst days of this person’s life. Yes, it’s going to be ok; yes, they’re going to find another job; yes, it’s for the best. But today is likely one of the worst days of their lives, and they have to leave the office and go home and tell their family and their friends. They have to face professional and perhaps financial uncertainty. Respect this.
Have the person escorted out by an armed guard. Talk about humiliating. Unless you have real reason to think that the person will become violent or steal your stuff, this is true overkill. (And, yes, I’ve seen this done on more than one occasion.) It is best for them to leave the office, but you don’t have to make a drama of it.
Be determined to “win” the firing. Many new managers want to control every aspect of the firing announcement. It shows they’re “in control” and “sends a message.” But allowing the firee some leeway in crafting the announcement and softening the edges a bit can go a long way with them. After all, you have any number of employees; they only have one career.
Talk badly about them when they’re gone. Nothing says “managerial immaturity” like dissecting someone when they’re gone. It doesn’t make you look tough; it makes you look like you’re in junior high.
Surprise them. If they’re flabbergasted, you haven’t given them enough feedback on their performance. Which means you likely aren’t giving your team enough feedback. Which means your team is likely performing sub-optimally.
I’ve written before that companies all seem to want to build networks. Well, most have one: the people who used to work there. (See: A Fundamental Rethink of the Investment in Your Employees.) It is fascinating that well-run, up-or-out companies like McKinsey and Goldman Sachs have “alumni” who speak well of them and send them business. It is in part because they thoughtfully and respectfully manage the exit process. How much business do you think the guy you had escorted out by an armed guard is going to send you….ever?
What did I miss?
Sallie Krawcheck is the Chair of Ellevate Network, the global professional women’s network.
(Photo: Flickr, Thomas Hawk)