Firing someone never gets easier (unless you're getting paid big bucks to yell "You're fired!" at people). Even if you're happy to see someone go, you know that by firing them you are putting them and possibly their family in a precarious position and that can be tough to swallow. Research done by the Journal of Vocational Behavior says unemployed people are twice as likely to suffer from psychological problems as employed people, so the danger is real.
Of course, the best time to fire someone is before you hire them, which means you should have a thorough process for recruiting and interviewing candidates so you only hire people who you don't need to worry about firing later.
However, that is easier said than done. People who seem right for the job during the interview might turn out to be woefully inadequate once put to the test. Always dedicate time for hiring, and always be proactive, and remember the best time to fix your roof is when it is not raining.
If you find that you do need to fire someone because of a performance issue, a personality issue or an honesty issue, here are some ways you can put yourself into the right frame of mind for it.
This person deserves to move onto the next chapter of their life as quickly as possible.
If you have decided to fire someone, don't put off doing it for any amount of time. Chances are that person isn't going to have some kind of miraculous turnaround and make you change your mind. You are likely just postponing the inevitable. Most people don't fire someone the first time they draw negative attention to themselves (unless it's something truly egregious). You've likely already given this person a second or maybe even third chance. If things haven't improved and there is no chance of this person getting promoted within your organization, then you should let that person get a head start on the next chapter of their life. The quicker they get started on their next job search, the better it will be for them.
As a leader, you have to look out for your company and your team before an individual.
The health of the organization comes before the career aspirations of any individual, even you. With that in mind, it should be much easier to let someone go if they're not contributing to the health of the company. If you leave cancer in the body, it grows, and if you leave a problematic employee in your organization, the problems they create will grow.
It will help you demonstrate a culture of accountability.
If you have established yourself as a fair leader, your team will know that you did not make this decision lightly and your decision will emphasize the importance of accountability in the workplace.
Even those who disagree with your decision will respect your intentions of holding people accountable for their actions and performance at work.
According to a Workplace Accountability Study, 91 percent of respondents indicated that "improving the ability to hold others accountable in an effective way" was one of the top leadership development needs in their organizations. Firing someone is the most drastic way of holding someone accountable, but if it's necessary and it does improve the organization (including people's perception of the organization), then it is worth it.
You will be positively shaping the culture of your organization.
Your decision to go through with the firing will strengthen both honesty and performance in the workplace. It shows that consequences are real and that you don't just put up with the status quo in your workplace if it goes against your corporate culture.
When it comes time to drop the ax (or do the deed if you prefer something less murderous), keep these guidelines in mind:
- Be firm and confident in your decision
- Be polite
- Don't argue with the person
- Don't patronize the person
- Stick to the facts about performance or honesty
- Know what you are going to say in advance
- Be prepared to deal with a potentially negative reaction
The decision to fire someone is usually not easy and the act of firing someone is even less easy, but by being prepared and looking at the good it will do for the organization and even the individual being fired, you will be able to put yourself in the proper mindset when it comes time to let someone go.