How To Fire
Updated: Mar 30, 2019
I’ve hired hundreds of employees in my tenure as a small business owner. But the truth is, I’ve also fired my fair share of people. As a matter of fact, they used to call me the axeman at our small company. Not because I was a brutal dictator who terminated employees at will with no empathy or heart. Just the opposite. I had a way with people that made it feel like this was a good decision all around—because in truth, it was.
The first secret to 'firing well' is to bust the myth that the employee does not see this coming. This is rarely true in a small company. Perhaps in large corporations or Hollywood movies there is the shock of being fired. But in a small company every little ripple is felt throughout the organization including an unhappy or non-fitting employee.
And that's great news. The pressure is eased when letting go of someone who doesn’t feel they are fitting in, just as much as you feel they're not fitting in. It's a pretty easy icebreaker or opener: I need to talk to you because it doesn’t seem like this has been a good fit for you here at our company.
Usually there’s a nod of agreement. Or a slight nod anyways. But what comes next in that conversation is just as important as the predictable icebreaker. What comes next needs to be some encouragement and insight. For example, I see you have many strengths and they could be better used in a job that fits your talents. I feel it would be a disservice to both of us for you to continue here and not be happy. My number one goal as a boss is for my employees to come to work and be happy because this is where you spend a large portion of your life. I really want to see you succeed.
Typically, by the end of these conversations instead of an angry or sad employee, I would have an inspired and energized employee ready to move forward and take the next steps.
Remember, in a small company you don’t have to fear that letting an employee go is going to be a surprise. If there have been infractions or issues in the past, you should have been forthcoming by having discussions with the employee and trying to provide adequate training, and other remedies to issues that may have arisen. You should also have a note of documentation when those discussions have occurred. And in cases of actual misbehavior, you should have copies of both verbal and written warnings. If they've truly done harm to your business through their actions, and you've kept good records, then you've done your part. If you've done your due diligence to hire right, then usually this is not about misbehavior, but just a bad fit—one that your employee may be relieved to be released from. So give yourself permission to do what's best for everyone.
From the axman who is actually a woman, happy firing. Just kidding. But not really.