Deciding when an underperforming engineer absolutely has to leave – and trying to rationalise that decision to your guilty conscience afterwards – is one of the downsides of rapid growth and success. But firing an employee doesn’t always have to result in massive internal conflict. Sometimes, there’s really no other choice.
Even when the rationale for firing is clear-cut, it can be hard to blind yourself to the fact that sacked employees have lives too, and that you may be severely compromising their ability to provide for dependant family members. Cue chronic nail-biting and late-night agonising. While you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t experience at least some feelings of guilt when firing someone, here are 4 ways you can manage the negative emotional fallout.
You’re doing the right thing by your remaining employees
See points 1 and 3 from the first part of this series. By firing problem employees, you’re actually protecting your company’s culture and the rest of the flock from undue stress, productivity drains and moral indignation. Unhappy employees are also more likely to mutiny, in which case you would have a much larger problem on your hands than just one black sheep. After all, your company’s culture is who you hire and fire.
You let them leave with dignity intact
Just because you fire someone doesn’t mean you have to publicly humiliate them while doing it. Avoid massive bust-ups and try to keep things as low-profile as possible. While you can’t keep the news of the dismissal secret, you can withhold the reasons for the dismissal. Let departing employees leave with their heads held high, without the office grapevine savaging them for whatever they did wrong.
You wouldn’t have tried to keep them if they’d resigned
This is a simple exercise in realigning your perspective. While you may now be the one giving the employee the sack, how would you feel if it were the other way around? If your reaction is one of relief or indifference, then you’ve probably made the right decision.
You’ve softened the blow somewhat
If your company’s resources permit it, you may want to consider severance packages for longstanding employees. You can also provide recommendations or help in the job search for those who leave without souring the working relationship (e.g. see point 5 in the first part). Alternatively, you could also refer them to recruiters who might know companies who are looking for candidates like him/her.
Finally, it’s important to remember that while guilt is a normal reaction to having to take away someone’s job, you’re ultimately in the business of running a business. If it comes down to disappointing one person versus compromising your company’s operations, your choice should be clear: the welfare of the company as a whole always comes first.
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