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We Decide to Fire Someone When We Hire Them

It all ends how we begin. Make firing productive

Turn that frown into a far less severe frown.

Even when everyone knows it’s necessary, nobody ever wants to use the big, bad, F-word.


Firing an employee is a difficult subject that most managers or HR departments struggle with despite experience.

What is the best way to make someone’s services available to another employer? How do you do that in a way that is efficient, doesn’t destroy the person leaving, and doesn’t leave a bad vibe amongst the team that remains?

Hitting all of these points is a massive challenge, and depends on the person you are firing too, but there are methods that can help make it possible.

Firing should be processed so that it should not be a surprise to the employee.

Except for one case in my over 30 year career, the firing discussions that I have had were productive, pleasant experiences, notwithstanding the difficult nature of the conversation itself. There are 3 major steps I took to yield this result, and I suggest them to all of you who may need to use the F-word any time soon.

1. Hire the Right People

Start from the beginning. Scrutinize and think hard about the people you hire and be sure to hire based on DNA more than anything.

Be extra sure they have a hand you want to shake!

You can teach a skill set if you have to, but you can’t teach DNA.

If you can avoid hiring someone who’s not compatible in the first place, you will avoid expelling them in the first place. It sounds painfully simple, but I hear horror stories about employees hired because of one skill or trick that impressed in recruiting, but then had nothing in common with the rest of the business.

It becomes a headache for you, them, HR, and everyone in between.

You can hire someone with flawed character, but don’t be surprised if you wind up having to let them go down the road.

I have an article just about hiring for DNA if you want more details on that.

2. Onboard Your Team Well

When you are inviting people onto your team, be sure that they have complete clarity about their role in the organization and the metrics by which they will be measured by.

Making their role as distinctly defined as possible is a major step in making sure that check-ins are productive and can lead to an amicable split if necessary. When they understand their environment clearly upfront, they will not be surprised or deeply antagonized by a firing.

Assuming that they are an adult and act like an adult, they will know that your expectations were not met along the way. If they don’t, you can at least point out that they had been given their directives from the start.

Like the first point, a clean firing is often dependent on treatment from the beginning of your collaboration.

3. Check-ins Are Imperative

After an onboarding, keep tabs on your new hire and have them communicate their issues openly. In many cases, the path leading to a firing is littered with mistakes that could have been addressed.

Make sure to address problems as they come. There are a million articles that say it, but transparent, constant communication is key to having healthy relationships around the office. If you wait until there has been an accumulation of ignored issues, then a firing will be far messier than anyone would like.

Set up check-ins maybe every day for the first week, then once a week, once a month and so on. If you set up an environment with a good onboarding, then you maintain accountability.

Over time, the hire should grow into their role because you thought they were a good fit and worked through hiccups. If that’s not the case, then the meetings have made it painfully obvious there’s a lack of compatibility and they’ll be more inclined to realize themselves that it may be time to go elsewhere.

Have a pulse on their progress or lack thereof. This is a bit too literal.

More than for your own records, check-ins allow better self-assessment for your employee and will make separation talks far less accusatory and one-sided. You have established trust between both parties and they hopefully feel that they are not being blindsided by someone they barely know for failing to achieve goals of which they weren’t informed.

I believe most people are fundamentally good and want to do good work. I believe, when they know where they stand, are appropriately mentored, and given every opportunity to utilize managerial patience, the off-boarding process can be quite gracious.

If it were possible to fire everyone and rehire those who leave with class, I would choose that option.

People don’t show their true nature until the chips are down and there’s no upside for them in doing the right thing. That’s why you do whatever you need to in terms of questions or settings or circumstances to gauge that true nature as accurately as possible at the front end.

There are too many case-by-case variables for a secret trick to the conversation itself. Make it as honest and empathetic as possible, and hope that you made your prior choices to the best of your ability.

Firing someone is never easy, but it doesn’t have to be as hard as it appears, and certainly doesn’t have to be as hard as most people make it.

Aaron Webber is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Webber Investments LLC, as well as a Managing Partner at Madison Wall Agencies.

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Check out my Quora, & LinkedIn pages for more.



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