How to be a Good Firer (aka a Kind Terminator)

Do you remember the first time you had to fire someone? Or…are you the lucky few that have never had to do this task?

Firing someone sucks. It’s really, really hard to do (unless you have a heart made of stone) because you’re vastly altering someone’s life.

Let’s take a look at a couple styles of terminators and then I’ll give you how I believe someone should be “let go.”

The “Super Passive Terminator” aka the manager that asks HR to do it because “that’s HR’s job.” Ummmm…no it’s not. It is waaaayyyy to impersonal to NOT have the manager involved. Yes, HR can be there but the manager should be responsible for delivering the hard news. I especially like it when the manager stays silent when they know they’re supposed to tell the employee what is going on. Awkward silence followed by encouraging (or annoyed) glances from HR to get the job done.

The “You’re Fired!” terminator. Ugh…these are the worst kind. I’ve literally heard a CEO yell this at someone, “YOU’RE FIRED!” then look to me to clean up the mess (aka final pay, termination paperwork and a very, very, VERY upset person). Firing someone out of sheer emotion without consulting HR is not only unprofessional it could create a HUGE liability for the company.

No matter how you slice it terminations are awful and the reactions from those affected range from stoic stares to tears to sheer anger. No matter what, terminations are difficult to deliver and to receive.

I’ve found over my career that I’ve developed a way to do it the BEST way possible.

I’m a nice firer.

Here’s how you can be a “nice firer” too.

I stay very calm. When I deliver the news I keep my voice very low. I talk calmly and slowly. My body language is open. I lean in a bit and ensure there are no obstructions (desks, objects, etc) between me and the person I’m speaking to. Open, kind, calm communication.

I have compassion. Through my calm voice I make sure I have a heart of compassion while I do it. I believe this shines through to the other person and they can feel that I am being sincere when I ask, “Are you okay?” Yes, ask if the person is okay and ask more than once. Ask if they understand what is happening. Often times due to the stress of the situation they do not hear everything you are saying.

Find the good. If possible I find the silver lining in the situation. Everything DOES happen for a reason. If the employee was a poor performer find a way to encourage them to understand this is only a lesson in life and they can always do better next time. Also, sometimes time away from work is good. Unemployment can kick in and they can take a break to spend time with family and friends, reflect on what happened and look forward to the next step in life. There is always a bright side…try to find it for them to give them perspective on the situation.

Terminating someone is never easy but you can do it in a way that is kind, compassionate and maybe even beneficial to the person being let go.

Oh, and btw…(LeiLani puts on her shades)…being kind is the cool thing to do. ????


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