1. Don’t wait
Firing someone is like breaking up: if you’re entertaining those kinds of thoughts, it’s probably time to move on. “I once waited a whole month before I finally sat the employee down and had the talk,” says Michael Brooker, a real estate agent, “and by that time, it was way overdue. I think I put it off for so long because I wasn’t looking forward to hurting them, but there came a point when I couldn’t keep them around any more without hurting the business.”
If you’re still on the fence, listen to the words of Spartz Media founder and CEO Emerson Spartz: “No leader has ever fired an employee and then said to themselves, ‘I wish I had waited six months before firing that person.’”
2. Leave the emotion out of it
The termination process will be emotionally charged as it is, and it’s up to you as the boss to prevent it from escalating. Of course, exceptions will occur, but those should be minimized as much as possible. “The best practice I’ve implemented in my business is an expectations and agreement letter with my employees,” advises TV host and author Josh Shipp. “Expect the best, but do prepare for the worst. That way you don’t act out of emotion- it’s decided in advance.”
3. Don’t engage
Hearing “you’re fired” can be a traumatic experience for employees and thoughts can often wander to examining personal flaws. Be prepared with the reasons for the dismissal, stay on topic, and remember to show respect and empathy. Ed Cook, owner of a Georgia, USA State Farm Agency, admits, “We didn’t handle things well and should’ve done things differently. I think we both realized it was a rotten situation, for me and for her.”
4. Have good timing
Firing someone on a Friday is the worst day to do it. They’ll stew about it all weekend (the last thing anyone wants is a ruined weekend) and most businesses will be closed, preventing them from getting an early start on applying to another job. If you do the deed earlier on in the week, it’ll also give the person a chance to emotionally recover; they’ll need a couple of days to get over the initial sting so grant them that.
However, if things are really bad, remember that the best day to fire someone is the day you realize it’s not working out.
Above all, remember that it’ll be just as hard or harder for the person on the other end. Showing them with kindness and compassion will help the entire process go more smoothly, and it’ll show basic human decency on your part. Keep things short and sweet, thank them for their contributions, and shake their hand at the end, but don’t patronize them. They’ll be feeling pretty lousy and the last thing they’ll want to hear is, “You’ll feel better tomorrow morning.”
“I once had a boss let me go and tell me things would look better once I slept on it. I felt like such a child and swore I’d never do that to anyone,” recounts Anita Schill, an HR manager.
Remember, just treat them the way you would want to be treated in the same situation, and firing employees should get easier for you.