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Like most human beings, I don’t like firing people. I don’t find it easy to tell someone that they are no longer needed in any business, regardless of whether there is a good reason (most of the time) or not (some of the time). It doesn’t mean I won’t do it, but there is absolutely zero job satisfaction in giving someone their P45. And I would consider it a sure fire indicator that I should sling my CIPD badge in the bin and take up something meaningful, like, er scientology, if I came out of a dismissal meeting wanting to high-five everyone around.

I have been asked to fire people in various scenarios over the years: when a firm’s top engineer was deemed too ‘weak’ even though all their clients loved her and she was raking in the most money for the company ….. (stupid company); where someone had been raking in their expenses ….(stupid employee), but most of the time it is because the employee has been viewed to not quite get ‘it’.

Regardless of the reason that brings you into that room, like dumping a partner, there are bad and ‘better’ ways to end things. Outside the standard practices you should adhere to (to minimise any legal risks – not covered in this particular post) here are my do’s and don’ts of how to let someone go that won’t leave you questioning yourself afterwards:

  • Don’t let your HR Manager or Advisor do it on their own: Not just because its unadvisable from a legal perspective. It’s a chicken sh** way to deal with an employee and destroys any respect anyone has for you as its patently obvious that you’re the one behind it.
  • Don’t attend the meeting and let your HR person explain everything: See above for explanation. If you don’t know what words to say, then run through it with your HR Advisor or someone else you trust and have them help you until you feel more at ease. I’ve run through scripts with the most confident of managers, posing all sorts of questions in my role as ‘employee’, until they are comfortable with their words. It’s a testament to your own learning that you feel a bit out of your own comfort zone doing this.
  • Do come prepared with a couple of examples: The chances are that the employee will either want to continue discussions about this to extend out the meeting and work out what to do (remember they are just processing this information that you have had days or weeks sitting on). They might simply not understand and need a picture clearly painted for them so they can grasp the issues and reflect later.
  • Do it quickly and get to the point fast: I have been in dismissal meetings when half way through the meeting, the employee started a dialogue thanking the manager for his praise in the most recent project. The manager introduced the topic of dismissal in such a random and elongated way, that at one point the employee had the distinct impression he was up for promotion.
  • Thank them: Whatever it is that they have done or said to get to this point, it is unlikely that they are horrible people or have been deliberately trying to get dismissed. They may just not have had the right skills or style for what your business needed at that point in time. So part with good manners, at the very least, if not sweet sorrow. Thank them for their time and wish them the very best in future endeavours.
  • And finally, do make it final: There is no point in making it seem like somewhere down the line there may be a place for them in the business. You know as well as they do, it ain’t gonna happen so there is not point in letting them hang on in there.

It is a mostly horrible process for all concerned and even if there are ‘good’ ways to do it (it took me a while to learn this and I freely admit to learning from experience in this regard) the reason why most managers take to ending employment in an almost robotic way, without any conversation, is to spare their own feelings as much as those of the people on the receiving end. No-one wants to be in that room, but all parties will come out of it better people if you take the time to create an honest and clear explanation of what led to that point.

Photo Credit: It Could Be You by Stuart Richards