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HR/BENEFITS

How to Fire Someone -- And Have Them Thank You For It

As companies reach a certain size, they inevitably outgrow some employees who have become "family."
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"Some of your team members, who may have been very loyal in the beginning of the company and were awesome--good utility players--are no longer the right people to get you to the next level," declared Steve Kimball, CEO of the Inc. Navigator program, at a recent Build/Live event.

The consequence? You need to execute a strategic firing or two. Or, in the case of oDesk -- a rapidly growing midsize company based in Redwood City, California--three.

Kimball and Gary Swart, CEO of oDesk, offered some advice for how to handle these emotional dismissals. Swart said that he thinks about the "many times" firing an employee has worked out best for both parties. He recalled a former oDesk employee who ultimately was grateful for his termination.

"He got to the point where the pressure was on; he had to perform," Swart said. "I would show up at 7 a.m., and he was already in the office, at his desk, cranking away. He was running -- just to try and keep up.

"At the end, it didn't work out," Swart remembers. "And he begged us. He said, 'Please, I don't want to leave. I love the company. I'll do anything. Can I intern? Give me a different job. I'll prove it.'"

Swart fired him anyway. "I said, 'It's time. It's time for you to go.' And he went."

Six months later, the former employee invited the CEO to lunch--at Google headquarters. "He got a better job," Swart said. "It was a much better fit for him."

The two now have lunch every six months. "He says, 'Thank you. It was because of you--you helped me get into something where I could be more successful, where I could be happy.'"

This article was originally published at The Build Network.

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Jan 15, 2014

THE BUILD NETWORK STAFF

The Build Network staff curates provocative, actionable leadership advice for executive teams running sustained-growth companies.




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