The only thing worse than firing an employee is firing one that is dear to you. The reasons for letting go of a beloved employee may vary. Perhaps you’ve outgrown them, can’t afford to keep them, or they are no longer cutting it. Whatever the reason, you don’t want to destroy this person that has become a friend or family member, so you need a strategy.
Get Your Head Straight
Remember, you are not running a charity, you are running a business. You pay your employees to do work that moves your company forward. But you do want to fire a person with care. The most heartfelt strategy is to try to give them as much notice and money as you can, so they will have a soft landing. Start planning for firing – plan six-weeks ahead of time. Pick a day with no significance. A Friday is a good option, since you’re headed into the weekend, it gives you an opportunity to get everything from them, and have them clear out their desk without an audience. And that way, they are not a source of gossip in your office.
Be Ready For Questions
Expect that your employee will have questions, and be prepared to answer them. Always tell the truth. If you did have work performance concerns, you should already have addressed these with her in the past and given her fair warning that if she didn’t improve, she would be terminated. If you’ve reached the point of letting her go, she shouldn’t be surprised. You should have documented all the conversations about performance to protect yourself. If the reason is that your company is having financial difficulties, make it clear that it was a business decision, and that you will provide a reference and even help her get a new position.
Respect Their Privacy
Firing an employee should always happen behind closed doors. It’s nobody else’s business, and you don’t want to incite panic among your other employees, who might be concerned that they are next in line.
Have a Backup Plan
Don’t fire anyone without knowing how you will handle their workload. If this employee worked with you over five years, consider providing a severance check. You can either plan to let her go immediately or give her two-to-four weeks to wrap up her work. While she might prefer to get paid for an additional few weeks, don’t be surprised if she just storms out. Have a back-up plan for how you’ll handle her most critical tasks. Is there someone on your team who can step-up and take over? Perhaps you can spread the work across your team until you get a replacement hired and trained.
Try to Help
If you are close to your employee, you’ll naturally want to help her transition into something else. If you have contacts that could help her find a job, offer to connect her to them. Give her a glowing recommendation on LinkedIn. Offer to advise her in finding her next career opportunity, if she wants your help. But understand if she doesn’t; people take being let go personally, and she won’t see how kind you are being right now.
No one likes firing anyone, whether it is warranted or not. If you find yourself in that situation, be kind. Incidents of workplace violence are real, and you never know what someone is dealing with internally or in their personal lives. You never know when your paths will cross again, so if possible maintain your relationship.