Telling employees that they need to move on is difficult for all parties. In most movies, the emphasis is placed on the individual being fired--their heartbreak, outrage, and anger at management. What most people don't discuss is what it's like to be on the other side of the table--the person doing the firing.
It's not easy to sit in front of someone and tell them that they need to leave. Whether it's due to their poor performance, a reduced budget, or a change in direction, most people take being fired personally. To be the person "twisting the knife" is an uncomfortable burden and part of the responsibility of being a leader.
Not all terminations have to be teeth-pulling events. When planned and executed correctly, despite the presence of uncomfortable feelings, proper termination leaves both parties feeling respected and valued. To learn more about mastering the art of firing, look to psychology.
As a life coach and licensed therapist, my job is to put myself out of business. When things go well with my clients, I have to end the relationship. Psychology, which teaches psychologists how to end relationships, can show business the best ways to end relationships--even when that ending is unexpected.
Freud once said that no therapy is ever complete. Drawing the parallel to business, even great employees never finish all of the work they could possibly complete because circumstances change. The evolution of the marketplace demands that businesses change directions to stay relevant and profitable. Parting ways with employees--both good ones and bad ones--is part of the job description.
And with Millenials changing jobs more frequently than their predecessors, it's possible that you could fire and eventually re-hire the same person. Which brings us to the main question of this article, how can you fire people well enough for them to have the desire to return?
1. Take sufficient time to process the termination.
Psychology shows us that when therapists and clients take several sessions to process the ending of the relationship, it improves client satisfaction. Job loss isn't just the loss of income; it's losing a family. Start treating termination as if you were parting ways with someone you care about.
2. Show your employees that you value them.
Empty words are meaningless without action. You can either provide them with monetary resources to show your respect, or you can offer your vast network to connect them with other opportunities. Helping others in whatever means you can afford makes them more likely to recommend you to their friends.
3. Consolidate the lessons learned while working for your company.
When ending therapy, it's important to help clients realize how much they've gained in working together. As you find yourself ending a relationship with your employee, take the time to help them reflect and figure out what was meaningful in their work. Help illuminate their positive contributions and the skills they brought to your company so that they feel a sense of closure and ongoing connection to your business.
4. Know that a wide range of emotions will come up.
Most often, people experience sadness or anger, but the root will be in fear. Be mindful of the fact that some people will withdrawal--pretending that they don't care--as a way to protect themselves. Regardless of how the person reacts, treat them with compassion.
5. Allow yourself to empathize with them.
Don't try to sit there and be unaffected. I know that firing an employee is not the same thing as terminating with a long-term therapy client in that you may not have as strong of a relationship with the person, however, allow yourself to feel connected to the other person in that moment.
You're not hiring or firing an employee, you're ending a relationship with a person. The better you treat them at the end of the relationship, the more likely they are to feel an ongoing sense of connection to your business, and the better your company's reputation will become.