Chances are you are not going to find out you have been fired while you are watching a breaking news alert on the screen behind you as you give a speech to hundreds of your employees. Chances are if you are in a management position, you will not suddenly fire someone by letter without warning.
That abrupt dismissal was the biggest news in the U.S. this past week as James Comey was fired as FBI Director by President Donald Trump.
Yes, at some point along our career paths, chances are each of us will be fired. And if you are a leader of your team, a human resources executive, CEO or entrepreneur, you may have to do the firing—or letting go, downsizing, dismissal, parting of ways or whatever euphemism you employ in the termination.Allowing the employee to maintain her dignity is a top priority if you need to fire her #CareerChoices Click To Tweet
And if so, do your best to do it in the best way possible—if that’s possible. Be kind, thoughtful and compassionate and treat the employee as you would want to be treated. Think of it as a professional break up and a bump on the person’s career path.
“I think you have to do it with sensitivity. People define themselves by their positions and the companies they work for,” says a Chicago-area senior human resources executive. “Treat them with the ultimate respect and dignity. It is very painful; their jobs are so caught up in their identity. Whether they did something and terminated themselves or it is a restructuring, you always have to do it with sensitivity and help people move on.”
- Make sure the process is legal and you follow the rules.
This exit strategy has to follow every line of the rule book and also has to be pristine between the lines. No personal comments, nothing that can be construed as discriminatory.When firing someone, make sure the process is legal and you follow the rules #WomenLeaders Click To Tweet
“Employment rules vary wildly across the world, but one bit of advice all our experts agreed on was that if you’re sacking someone – follow the law,” writes Simon Atkinson in BBC News.
“There’s legislation in place to protect employees and if it’s not a fair dismissal and the processes are not followed, it will come back to haunt you,” Rachel Suff, employment adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, told Atkinson.
“Before calling your employee into your office to let them go, it’s important that you do your homework. This includes talking to human resources about any possible issues with letting this person go or any extra paperwork you may need to provide them with. You should also anticipate any questions that the employee might raise,” Hallie Crawford writes in Yahoo! Finance.
“If you are new to firing employees, make sure you know the protocol for what the employee needs to do next. Even if you are seasoned at letting employees go, double-check what you need to do and have everything set up ahead of time. This isn’t the time to wing it; you will want to make sure that this process goes as smoothly as possible for the employee,” Crawford writes.
- Do the firing in person.
You do not want to let someone go by phone, email, letter or social media message. This should also not be a huge surprise to the person on the receiving end.
“If you are going to fire someone, you should at least do it in person,” Lucy Adams, chief executive of The Disruptive HR Agency (and former director of human resources at the BBC), told Atkinson.
Anything other than a face to face is not cool. You do not want to make this the worst moment in someone’s career path.
“’It’s not a respectful way to connect with an individual,’ says Rosemary Guyatt, HR Manager at the Australian HR Institute,” writes Atkinson.
“That’s pretty basic as a management principle,” Max Stier, chief executive of the nonpartisan nonprofit Partnership for Public Service tells the Washington Post. “When you let someone go, it’s a basic organizational concept that they ought to know it’s coming, that they’ve been communicated with before.”
- Be respectful.
Do not be condescending in your tone or dismissive. Be kind, but do not be overly emotional. Allow for some tears, perhaps and anger, but do not react emotionally.
“You want to leave them with their dignity intact,” Karin Hurt, former Verizon executive, leadership consultant and co-author of Winning Well: A Managers Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul, told the Huffington Post.
“I can’t tell you how meaningful it is if you do this well and you approach the situation with compassion, and you help people to fail forward. They’ll come back to you a couple of years later and say, ‘You know what? Thank you. That really made a difference in my ability to rebound from this terrible part of my career,’” Hurt says.
Part of being respectful is also not prolonging someone’s misery by scheduling a meeting at the end of the day and have the person worry all day long about what will happen. Also, do not do the firing at a conference, a work lunch or dinner or in any public place where someone could overhear or witness your dismissal. This a humiliating act for the person who is leaving.
- Help the former employee move forward.
Set up outplacement services, make sure the person knows what are the options for insurance coverage and possible exit compensation. Most of all, be human, and not cavalier. This was someone’s livelihood and this is only one interruption of a long career path.If you are letting someone go, help the former employee #MoveForward Click To Tweet
“I’ve always ensured that the process of dismissal was not only followed correctly, but undertaken with humanity and consideration, regardless of whether it’s a redundancy situation or a capability reason,” says Martine Robins, whose company provides outsourced HR support for small and medium sized-enterprises, in The Telegraph.
Peter Cappelli, a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania who studies human resources, says that when people aren’t given the news in a personal way that gives them an opportunity to absorb it first, it also creates an unintended risk, writes Jenna McGregor in the Washington Post.
You may have delivered the worst news of someone’s life by ending their run with a company. But you want to make sure you leave that person with her dignity in tact and with the idea that this is only the end of one line on a resume.
It is not likely anyone will be fired up about firing someone. But you can know you did your best to help the person take critical next steps for her next move on her career path.