The Art of Firing: How to Let Someone From Your Company Go

It’s every team’s nightmare — someone in the company just doesn’t fit. They may have a difficult personality, or constantly make mistakes, or maybe they’re splendidly fit for the position, just…elsewhere. When it occurs to you that someone in your group doesn’t exactly belong, you may want to disregard it or wait for signs of improvement. But after a while, this will just prolong the issue and create more and more dissatisfaction. Sweep the problem under the rug and everything can start to fall out of whack, including your team morale, productivity and even revenue.

Before firing someone

Before you initiate that tough conversation with your bad hire, make sure you’re doing the right thing. Talk with your team in a respectful manner if disagreements have risen. High turnover rates are one sign that a company’s practices are contributing to bad hires. If this seems to be the case, try implementing tools and practices that support your team before you fire someone (and end up in the same boat with the next person). Sometimes conflict is really a sign that your operations and team collaboration style needs tweaking.

Next, consider the real reason why you want to fire this person. Bad hires can roughly fall into two types: poor cultural fit or poorly fit for the position. Determine which applies to the person in question. This will help clarify what went wrong so you can make a better hiring decision next time. You don’t want to keep repeating the mistake, so take the time now and figure out how you can adjust your hiring process.

Have there been issues with their behavior, values or ability to work with others? This points to poor cultural fit, which you’ll want to start screening for more carefully. On the other hand, is their quality of work slipping? Are they making mistakes? Do they seem confused? If this is the case, their experience and skill level may be the problem. Keep in mind that if this person fits wonderfully within your culture, you don’t have to immediately terminate them. Additional trainings or tweaking how, when and with whom they work could be the answer. Have a one-on-one meeting with this person first to make sure you’ve made an effort to improve their performance. If they don’t respond to these efforts, assume it is time to let them go.

Related: Successful Hiring Must Prioritize Traits That Can’t Be Taught

Deciding to fire someone

Once the final decision has been made to let someone go, remember that you can stay professional regardless of the employee’s reaction. It’s important to be upfront and direct when firing someone. Beating around the bush can create tension and make the other person feel as though you’re insulting their intelligence. Be honest about the reasons why you are letting them go. When you sugarcoat it, the employee loses the opportunity to learn from the experience and see where their weaknesses lie. Find a comfortable balance between being distant and overly-personal.

In addition, avoid the act of triangulation at any cost. Triangulation is essentially gossip – when you secretly include a third party instead of discussing things directly with the first person. It’s OK to address questions from other team members, but keep the conversation brief and free of personal details. Respond with facts rather than your personal opinion on why the person was let go.

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Preventing bad hires

Ideally, a startup will rarely be in the predicament of having to fire and replace someone. For this to be avoided, businesses have to optimize their hiring process front start to finish. The first step to reshaping your onboarding process is to get clear on who you are. What does your brand stand for? What kinds of people does it need to attract to fulfill its vision? This info should be carefully weaved through any hiring materials that candidates see. Your company culture should be introduced to candidates before they’re hired, not on the first day of the job.

Have current employees look at hiring materials and screen for misunderstandings. For example, a “flexible schedule” may have a slightly different meaning for each person you ask. Make sure you convey your expectations thoroughly, too.

If bad hires or high turnover rates have become the norm in your business, it’s time to let go of these employees and take back your onboarding process. Examine where you source candidates and how effectively you project your company culture. By doing this, you’ll deliberately attract the right candidates and strengthen your entire workforce.

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