Anyone who runs a business knows how hard it is to find talent. What's personally harder is letting the same talent go. Doing that feels like a failure.
Did you do enough to train the employee?
Should you have watched more carefully any warning signs this person wasn't the right fit?
Not to mention that pit in your stomach that you're about to hurt someone.
Scott Kurnit, the founder of About.com and Keep.com, has had to fire and lay off many people while building several businesses. No surprise he's developed a few rules to live by. You can listen to his experience on the latest Radiate podcast.
Some rules include:
1. Never firing someone just before the weekend. "You never, ever fire anybody on a Friday," Kurnit says. "Because they go home, who even knows whether they tell their wife or husband, they kind of keep it in, you don't know what people might do. They don't know that they are going to be okay so they can freak out." Imagine getting the news right before you're about to enjoy some family time. Not good. Perhaps more importantly, when you get the news on Friday you can't do anything about it. Your colleagues and friends in your network are about to turn off for the weekend. No future employers are open for 2 more days. You end up stewing about it for the weekend before you can take any action. If the firing is done earlier in the week, you let your people do something about their situation immediately.
2. Never fire someone late in the day. Again, you want people to have the most amount of time in that week to do something, whether it's calling their recruiter or friends in their network. This rule is also partly for the boss. The worst thing for you is to worry about the action all day which means you'll likely get nothing done.
3. Be as humane as possible. In other words, these people are genuinely about to have their worlds turned upside down. Some of their so-called friends are about to ignore them because they don't have a job anymore. To the extent that you can, help them find new jobs. Stay in touch with them if you're still on good terms. Kurnit says he has kept in touch with people he had to lay off only for them to work for him again, including one of his co-founders at About.com. It's uncommon but it happens-sometimes an employee (Kurnit calls them members) is not the right fit at that time but he or she could be later on.
4. And finally, always take full responsibility. In other words, don't tell employees you are doing this because your boss told you to. Telling an employee that you are just the "messenger" for your boss is a cowardly way to absolve yourself of your own responsibility. The fact is, when someone is fired nobody wins. It may be better for the organization but it also reveals a gap in someone's hiring process and that needs to be fixed.
Kurnit might not have been on the receiving end of a firing but he remembers leaving big jobs and what happens after. Mostly, he remembers the people who ignored him because he wasn't associated with a big position. (Watch Kurnit give his coaching tips to entrepreneurs in this Radiate video series).
Which leads to the last rule: if you see a friend or colleague has been laid off or fired, do the right thing and reach out. Let them know you're there to help. As Kurnit says, "One of the things I learned about my Dad...was when someone lost a job, he would be one to reach out to them. Now, that's the right thing to do. Most people don't do it, they don't know how to do it, but the other one that's interesting is he said, `They're going to work again, and they are going to remember that I was nice to them.'"