The Right and Wrong Ways to Fire Someone.

8 Common Mistakes That You Need to Avoid.

Photo by Icons8 team on Unsplash

Don’t Think That You Don’t Need a Reason.

If you work in an employment-at-will state, that means you can fire someone for any reason or no reason at all, right? Wrong.

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Civil Rights Acts
  • Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)
  • Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA)
  • Equal Pay Act (EPA)
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
  • False Claims Act (FCA)
  • Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Genetic Information and Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)
  • National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)
  • Worker Adjustment, Retraining, and Notice Act (WARN)
  • Multiple Human Relations Acts and Workers’ Compensation Acts that are dependent on the state.

Don’t Fire Anyone without First Giving Them the Chance to Improve.

“Be transparent about why the termination is happening. If you did things right, it shouldn’t be a surprise to the person.” — Christine Tsai

Few things make someone angrier than feeling blindsided on performance issues. And nowhere is this more critical than in making a decision to fire someone.

Don’t Fire Anyone While You’re Angry

“Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret,” Ambrose Bierce advised. And just like our words, decisions made and actions taken while angry often become a major source of regret.

Don’t Procrastinate.

“Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt,” wrote the great David Mamet in Ronin, emphasizing the importance of being decisive and moving forward. And whether it’s battle or business, the ability to make a decision and commit to a necessary course of action is often the difference between success and failure.

“It is the duty of the executive to remove ruthlessly anyone — and especially any manager — who consistently fails to perform with high distinction. To let such a man stay on corrupts the others. It is grossly unfair to the whole organization. It is grossly unfair to his subordinates who are deprived by their superior’s inadequacy of opportunities for achievement and recognition. Above all, it is senseless cruelty to the man himself. He knows that he is inadequate whether he admits it to himself or not. Indeed, I have never seen anyone in a job for which he was inadequate who was not slowly being destroyed by the pressure and the strains, and who did not secretly pray for deliverance.“

Don’t Try to Handle It Alone

Firing someone is not a regular occurrence for most managers. So you shouldn’t expect to be a practiced expert. Yet there are likely other managers who’ve handled this situation before. And your HR department will have the benefit of being involved in similar occurrences as well. Use the resources at your disposal.

Don’t Drag it Out

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” — George Bernard Shaw

When it comes time to deliver the message, don’t drag out the conversation. Starting out with some pleasant small talk is disingenuous and sends the wrong signal. Doing so is simply a way for you to delay what’s necessary.

Don’t Tell People That They’ll Be Better Off.

“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” — Steve Jobs

Yes, Steve Jobs was ultimately better off after having been fired from Apple. And the same ends up being true for many people over the long course of their careers. If someone’s struggling in their current role, starting fresh somewhere else is likely to be in their long-term best interest.

Don’t End on a Negative Note.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

Losing a job can be traumatic. And people will likely look back on this day as a very difficult one. But through it all, they should always be treated with empathy, respect, and dignity.

The Right Way to Let Someone Go.

“My advice on firing is simple: Treat that person the same way you’d want to be treated if you were in that situation. They’re still a good person, just not the right fit. So how do you help them move on in a productive way that allows them to maintain their dignity?” — Mary Barra

How you treat someone who’s on their way out the door will say a lot about your character. We’ve all seen managers who’ve handled this situation with professionalism and grace. And we’ve all seen managers who’ve acted like petulant children.

  • To have understood you weren’t meeting expectations and given the chance to improve.
  • To be treated with the respect of a direct, straightforward conversation.
  • To be told without delay once a decision is made instead of being strung along.
  • And to have things end on as positive of a note as possible.

Enemy of the Status Quo.

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