Firing

This is one of the most difficult tasks a manager must do, and often managers procrastinate taking this step because of its difficulty. Here’s how to do it well, when it must be done.

  • First, realize that firing someone is good for the company and often good for the person
    • For the company
      • A team member who is not delivering against expectations usually affects other employees, either by causing them additional work or by lowering the performance standards of the company.
      • They are also costing the company money and impacting the company’s ability to serve customers, grow, and/or be profitable
    • For the person
      • Consciously or unconsciously, most people are stressed when they are in a job that is not right for them
      • Many times, fear of “what’s next” keeps them stuck; firing them frees them and forces them to explore what they should be doing instead
  • Next, know that firings should never come as a surprise to the employee.
    • If the manager is doing their job, it will be clear to the employee that he/she is not performing up to expectations and that there are consequences to that shortfall.

Consider that there are two types of “firings”. 

  • The first is when a manager has hired the right person—they are a good match with the company’s values—but they are in the wrong seat—they are NOT a good match for the role they are in. The solution is to move them into a role they DO match, following these steps in order:
    • Reach mutual agreement that they are missing some key capability or characteristic that is required to succeed in their current role, and that past efforts to help them improve have not succeeded and are unlikely to succeed.
    • Identify open or new roles that the employee WILL match well, if possible
    • Reach mutual agreement with the employee and the new manager on the details of moving the employee to the new role, including how that move will be communicated to other employees
    • Execute the change
  • The second is when the person is not a good fit with the company’s values. 
    • This may or may not reflect a moral failing—someone could be risk-averse and not a creative thinker in a company that values risk-taking and creativity. The solution in this case is to end the person’s employment in a way that honors them and optimizes their chances of future success.
      • Reach mutual agreement that a values mismatch exists and is unlikely to be resolved in a timely way.
      • Reach a mutual agreement with the employee on the timeline of the transition out of the company and the assistance the company will provide to the employee in finding a new job.
    • If there is a moral failing, this may be an immediate departure with no assistance
  • Laws and regulations are likely to be a factor; consult with experts as needed
  • In all cases, the employee’s manager must assess and manage the impact on the organization
    • Will the org chart change, i.e., will the employee’s responsibilities be handed intact to someone, or will they be parceled out to multiple people?
    • Does the firing create a promotion opportunity? Is a new hire needed, and if so, for what role?
    • How will workflows be impacted? What knowledge needs to be captured before the employee departs?
    • How will other employees be impacted, professionally or emotionally?

Retiring

Because this is not a frequent occurrence, many managers will be novices at this step. Here’s what it looks like to do it well.

  • The financial aspects of retirement flow from the company’s policies regarding pay and benefits and should be part of the written employee handbook. 
  • When an employee approaches retirement, the manager and employee must prepare together for it.
    • They must agree on the timing, what communications will go out, and what ceremony will happen
      • Timing should be a mutual decision
      • The communications and ceremony should be based largely on the employee’s desire, but must honor both the employee and the company
      • Think carefully about the goals of both and how those goals can be met in an excellent way
    • Like in a firing, the manager must decide how to best manage the impact on the organization
      • Will the org chart change, i.e., will the retiree’s responsibilities be handed intact to someone, or will they be parceled out to multiple people?
      • Does the retirement create a promotion opportunity? Is a new hire needed, and if so, for what role?
      • How will workflows be impacted? What knowledge needs to be captured before the employee departs?
      • How will other employees be impacted, professionally or emotionally?