How to Fire Someone Well

This is a very painful topic, but if you’re a leader, you’re going to have to let someone go at some point in your career.  Doing it well is a skill.  So I’m assuming you’ve consulted your labour lawyer, had your performance reviews, and now you have to get it done.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Meet at the end of the day when others have gone home so the person doesn’t have to be ashamed in front of their (former) colleagues.
  2. Set up the meeting between Monday and Wednesday. Don’t do this on a Friday or the person will go home and stew all weekend and not be able to take any positive action.
  3. Don’t do this alone. You want someone there with you to collaborate what happened if that becomes necessary.
  4. Say as little as possible. There’s no rescuing this situation anymore, and the more you say, the more chance you’ll stand of getting into legal trouble (i.e. “ok, ok, the real reason we’re letting you go is that you’re a Norwegian and you’re a woman and besides, your wheelchair doesn’t work on the stairs…”)  And don’t give them a letter with explanations attached for them to scrutinize later with a labour lawyer.
  5. Don’t negotiate. This conversation can quickly turn into, “ok, I get it, now I’m ready to really change, plus I’ll only work half time and take a pay cut…”
  6. Be kind. Spare feelings, be as nice as you can be.  This is one of the top 10 worst days of this person’s life.
  7. Be generous. The more generous you are, the less likely you’ll have post-termination difficulty.
  8. Don’t take more than 10 minutes. Once you’re at 11 minutes, you’re going too long!

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