When It’s Time to Let Someone Go

When do you know it’s time to let someone go?  How do you go about doing it properly?

As a follow-up to a previous article, Hire the Right People, here are ideas for fixing a hiring error.

No one wants to lose an employee. No one wants to have to dismiss an employee. But there are times when hiring mistakes are made and must be corrected. Think of this letting go in steps:

  1. Admit to yourself that you made a mistake.
  2. Be sure you understand the laws in your state and do the necessary paperwork and documentation about performance that are mandated by law.
  3. Be clear that a firing is NOT personal.  Emotions are inappropriate in these situations and muddy the waters. Postpone any action until you have worked through the emotions.
  4. Ask the employee their thoughts on their performance  There are times when employees can see that they are not a good match and by listening to them, they will feel comfortable telling you this
  5. Is there somewhere else in the company where they would be a good fit?
  6. Who do you know in other companies or industries where the employee would be a good fit?
  7. Be willing to make a call to help find the employee another job.
  8. Be clear and concise about the reasons for the letting go.

Admitting Mistakes

Skip Prichard, the author of The Book of Mistakes, published a blog post by his friend, Bruce Rhoades, a retired business executive who writes about the advantages of a leader admitting a mistake, “Admitting and correcting mistakes does not make you look weak; it actually makes you look stronger.”

Further, Rhoades writes that admitting a mistake, “Builds trust—others see that you are human, honest and truthful … allows quick correction, which saves time and resources”.

Admit the mistake, first to yourself and then set things in motion to correct it.

Obey the Law

The Small Business Administration (SBA) web site is a great resource for understanding the law when firing someone. Check here (https://www.sba.gov/blogs/how-fire-employee-and-stay-within-law) before proceeding but remember it’s a starting point. If you have a business or labor attorney available, consult with them to be sure you’re following the correct procedure.

Check Your Emotions

Your business matters. It’s how you spend your days, your time, your talents. You have built it from nothing. Of course you are emotionally tied to the company.

At AmericanExpress.com, Bruna Martinuzzi writes, “Emotional self-control is our ability to keep disruptive emotions and impulses in check and maintain control over our actions. While this is important for everyone, it may be particularly crucial for a business owner or anyone in a leadership position.”

Martinuzzi gives several suggestions for getting emotions under control and one of her best, easiest solutions is to take a break. Get outside. Go to lunch. Leave the issue on the desk overnight. Think it through. Acknowledge your emotions but do not act on them.

Ask Them Questions

Frequently, since hiring the person who became disruptive or underperformed, the owner has never met one-on-one with the employee. Never. Not once. This is a good place to admit the mistake and ask the employee how they see they are doing.

Use questions to find out how they really think and feel about their job. Keep the conversation focused on the job and their performance.

Frequently people know they are not doing well and they will say so out right. But they must feel comfortable saying it out loud. It is your job to help them be comfortable enough to speak the truth.

Maybe There is a Better Fit

You know you need to let go of a Customer Service Rep (CSR) who doesn’t like people , constantly struggles with the technology needed to do their job or consistently gives the technicians a hard time? Is there somewhere else in your company where they could be successful?

Even though we use technology, most companies also have back up paper work. That employee who struggles with technology, may be a good fit for organizing and maintaining the back-up paperwork. Think about it. Allow the employee an opportunity to show what they CAN do.

We know of a doctor who, for several years, was able to run his business, a family practice, with three employees. The time came to hire a fourth employee. He found someone with experience in a medical office and he thought she would be a good fit.

The culture created in this particular doctor’s office was very serious. The first three employees, all women, when the doctor was in the office, were all business. They did not talk about anything that went on outside of the office except during breaks or lunch and even then they spoke sparingly about their personal lives. Their focus was on the patients and keeping things moving before the doctor had to walk across the street to the hospital to do rounds, something he did twice a day.

The new employee did not do this. She was constantly frustrated by what she saw as a difficult work situation and could not understand why things weren’t more relaxed.

The doctor could see that she would not work out. Instead of just letting her go, he knew of a surgeon that needed another employee. A surgeon’s practice was different from a family practice. The surgeon only saw patients for follow up care. This he usually did two days a week.

By placing a call, the employee that didn’t fit into a family practice, got a job with the surgeon, where she did fit.

Be Clear

When letting someone go, be clear and concise about the reasons and keep the focus on performance. It’s the best way to help the person you’re letting go to improve.

No one wants to have to fire someone but it has to be done sometimes. With these ideas, you will find that it’s much less difficult than you thought.

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Mary Burkett was born in Southern New Jersey, raised in Southern California, Mary Burkett is a graduate of the University of Utah.

Like many Americans, she has had more than one career, including being a Marketing Director in the shopping center industry, being a coach with Power Selling Pros and owning a Business and Personal Development coaching company.
She has six grown children, expects her 24th grandchild later this year, is active in her community, reads a lot, writes her own personal blog and works on special projects for Power Selling Pros.
Mary and her semi-retired husband live in Southern Utah.