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There are plenty of reasons why you may find yourself in the position of having to fire someone you like. Many sta...
There are plenty of reasons why you may find yourself in the position of having to fire someone you like.
Many start-ups’ first hires are close connections and in the cozy setting of a small business, bonds are built quickly and strongly. Unfortunately, we all know that someone’s likeability in a social setting has zero correlation to his or her performance in a work setting. Or perhaps you find yourself in the difficult position of needing to downsize.
Firing anyone is difficult, but when it’s someone you genuinely enjoy the company of and perhaps have even developed a friendship with, it is even worse. Here are some tips for ensuring a messy experience doesn’t turn into a nightmare.
Clear boundaries around your role as a boss need to be maintained, regardless of how chummy have become with someone who works for you.
When firing someone, you are their boss, and how much you like them, or not, is irrelevant.
If you think it’s hard firing someone, try being fired! By someone you thought liked you! Don’t open with phrases like, ‘This is really hard for me.’ Or ‘I don’t know what to say.’ It’s not about you. Leave your own feelings out of it.
Tears, emotional stories about their financial status or anger: all are possible reactions.
Steel yourself and mentally prepare for the worst so you’re not caught out.
Layoffs because of bad performance should never come as a surprise. Don’t mince warnings because you like the person and are worried about ruining your relationship.
Be frank about shortcomings as early as possible; it will help you later.
It can be tempting to ‘soften the blow’ with platitudes or questions about their personal world first. Don’t. The employee will appreciate you getting to the point quickly and fully; it’s like ripping off a Band-Aid.
Be clear and concise as to why they are being fired. Remain empathetic to the fact that this is hard for them to hear, but otherwise keep emotion out of it. ‘Mark, we have to let you go.’
Because you like the person you will want to help them and make them feel better about it. This may be translated as hope that they can talk their way into another chance and it’s cruel if that is not the case. Your role is to fire them. Let others in their world console them.
Don’t say, ‘I think you’ve been improving but the others…’ Take responsibility for the fact that you are firing them. Anything else causes confusion.
Most employees will just sit quietly but some will want to argue back. Alternately, they might go into detail about how being fired affects their personal life.
Continue to refer to the reasons why they are being fired and confirm that no more discussion will change the outcome.
In some companies it is policy to immediately walk someone to the door.
If you genuinely liked this person, give them more respect than a criminal and allow them a few minutes of privacy to collect their stuff or head to the bathroom.
If the person was genuinely someone you would like to hang out with outside of work, it may be possible to stay in touch.
Reach out soon after the firing and then give them some space before your second attempt. Remember, it is up to them whether they would like to build or maintain a friendship.
Firing someone is never easy. You will undoubtedly feel horrible about it afterwards so find someone appropriate to vent that to. This will leave the rest of your energy for making it as easy as possible for the person receiving, not just delivering the bad news.