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Terminating an Employee…Sucks

ITIf you have employees in your business it is bound to happen that eventually you are going to have to terminate someone. And it sucks. It sucks even if they deserve it. Most of the people I have had to let go over the years have made the decision on their own by not following assigned protocol or not changing a behavior they have been asked to adjust. They have fired themselves. It still sucks. I have terminated people that have been long term employees and I have terminated people shortly after they have started with us. And it sucks. 

This is not about when you should and shouldn’t fire someone or about what is right and wrong or legal and illegal-that is for you and your attorney to work out.  But, rather about you the employer.  It can be as hard to terminate someone as it is to be terminated, especially if it is someone you have come to know on a personal level.

The best advice I ever got was to not make it a conversation but to make it a directive. Once the decision has been made you need to stick with it and not get into a discussion over it. I broke my own rule about a year and a half ago and let someone talk me into staying on in a different(lesser) role. Our rationale was that the role she was in wasn’t a good fit but the new role would be better. Nope. Should have followed my own rule.  She didn’t do a very good job and left our employment soon thereafter.

By the time you have decided someone needs to go be sure you have put enough thought and research into the situation that there is no need to change it because of an uncomfortable conversation. 

It is also very important that everyone knows where they stand at all times so that they are not surprised when something like this happens. I can recall several instances when the reaction from the employee was “yea, I know…” They knew where they stood and weren’t surprised.

You may be amazed how many people are relieved to get terminated. Some because they don’t want to quit but don’t want to be here anymore and some because it is just a pattern they know.

If you know that each of your employees knows where they stand, then we you fire them for doing/not doing something you shouldn’t feel bad about it.  If you have done your job to give them ample warning and coaching to get them where you need them, they have simply decided that they don’t want to do it.  All you are doing is relieving them of the stress of trying to get there.  Look at this situation as a compassionate move on your part to give the employee an opportunity to find a situation that fits their skill set.

The reason it is hard to fire someone is because we think we may be wrecking their life. And while it generally isn’t s good thing for the employee (except maybe those who are trying to get axed!) it is rarely completely life wrecking. On a scale of 1(no big deal) to 10(life ending) losing a job falls somewhere in the middle generally, there are lots of things that are worse and for some it may be the best thing that ever happens to them (See Pat Flynn!).

So don’t let that person stick around and wreck your business becuase you think you may wreck their weekend.  You hired them to do a job and if that job isn’t getting done to your satisfaction then your business is suffering.  You are the CEO of your business and you are responsible for making sure it works for everyone involved.  We have lost other employees in the past because we didn’t get rid of someone we should have soon enough.

We have all had that girlfriend or boyfriend that when you break up with them all of your friends tell you how much they really hated them!  Many times employees will act the same way when someone leaves.  Even though they may not like the person in question and may also think they need to go it is amazing how much they will look out for and stand up for fellow employees.  Because we don’t always know first hand where all the other employees stand on the matter it is easy to be concerned withe potential fall out of letting some go. 

We had an employee at the golf course for a long time that didn’t fit in with our culture at all.  This person was gruff and unapproachable, which is why he still had a job for as long as he did.  There was concern there may be fallout if we terminated him and we all walked on egg shells for a long time.  When the final straw came and there was no longer a decision to be made, just an action to do, the conversation was quick, to the point and there was precisely zero fallout.  In fact several people asked my why it took so long.

In the years since I have found that to be the case, it is almost always better to get it over with when you know the time has come.  Waiting has never worked for us and I don’t think it ever will.

As the owner of your business it is your responsibility to make sure that everyone there is pulling in the same direction and there should be no bad apples or poisons in the ranks.  While terminating someone is never a pleasant experience and one that we all wish wasn’t a part of the job of “owner” it is an essential one.  Don’t be selfish in your actions by letting someone stay around that is not helping, or worse hurting, your organization because you are too uncomfortable to let them go.

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