Firing an employee: What you do vs how you do it (1)

Live Ghana Tv Blog

Blog / Live Ghana Tv Blog 123 Views

Treating fired people with disdain rather than with respect dampens the fears of employees who remain.

If you have a problem with an employee, you have not one but two choices: try to coach them and work with them to improve their performance, or fire them.

Firing an employee can be costly and cause your employee a great deal of emotional and financial difficulties—especially in the modern economy. Done in the wrong way, firing someone can also open you or your organization up to liability and lawsuits. Unfortunately, however, there are situations where terminating an employee is your only option. We will discuss how to fire somebody gracefully and safely.According to McKinsey the four hallmarks of leaders who do firings or layoffs well are:

1. They give affected people as much prediction about how the process will unfold --which protects them from unpleasant surprises, helps free them from being in a constant state of fear, and allows them to plan their lives.

2. They create understanding by explaining why the decision was made to people who are sent packing and to their surviving colleagues.

3. They help fired people exercise control over how and when they leave. They might, for example, give people a say over the wording of the announcement to their colleagues or the press. Or they might allow them to decide whether to leave immediately or stay around for a few days. Their goal is to do little things that enable people to feel less helpless or ashamed about losing their jobs.

4. Above all, leaders express compassion to the person who is being fired and when they discuss the person with others.

As expressed by Prof. Bob Sutton, rather than bad-mouthing people they fire, smart bosses usually do the opposite. Venture capitalist and former CEO Ben Horowitz wrote a lovely piece on how to do layoffs that captures what a humane firing process looks like – prediction, understanding, and control are evident throughout. This paragraph explains what compassionate leaders do during layoffs:

"Be present. Be visible. Be engaging. People want to see you. They want to see whether or not you care. The people who you laid off will want to know if they still have a relationship with you and the company. Talk to people. Help them carry their things to their car. Let them know that you appreciate their efforts."

Ben is talking about layoffs done to cut costs; a humane compassionate process may take different forms when a single person is fired for poor performance or unsavory behavior. But treating people with as much dignity and respect as possible, while doing the dirty work that must be done, remains the guiding principle.

Prof. Bob Sutton stated that there are at least five rational reasons why treating people with dignity is a good for your organization and for you.

 1. Ripple effects

Treating fired people with disdain rather than with respect dampens the fears of employees who remain. Employees know that, down the road, they may be sent packing too, and often think, or even say, when a colleague is canned “I wonder if I am next” or “But for the grace of God go I.” When they see that colleagues are treated with dignity in the process, it amplifies their psychological safety and confidence in you as a reasonable and sane leader. And the resulting dampening of their fear, anger, and anxiety helps them concentrate on doing their jobs and to feel good about going the extra mile for you and the organization—and makes them less likely to start looking for another job.

2. Replacements 

If you are firing a person that you need to replace, by treating them with dignity, you are less likely to scare away strong candidates for the position – especially internal candidates who see your civilized firing style first hand. But if you treat fired people like dirt, word will spread (including to external candidates), and they may well decide against taking a job that may end in ugly insults and humiliation.

3. Candidate pool

More generally, if your organization develops a reputation for cruelty and vindictiveness in it’s firing process, word will spread (by word of mouth, social media, and especially at sites where employees provide anonymous evaluations of employers such as Glassdoor), and will drive away strong candidates for all positions.

4. Revenge and litigation

By treating the people that you fire with dignity in the process, they are less likely to become angry and vindictive former employees who sue your company (and you) and bad mouth you to others. Much as I have seen with Michael Dearing and other compassionate leaders, the people you fire with dignity may even thank you, remain loyal to you, and say good things about you and your organization.

5. Your day may come

Finally, if you have belittled, bad-mouthed, and otherwise disrespected the people that you fire, you ought to worry about what will happen when the tables are turned—when the day comes that you get fired. Colleagues who have watched your nasty ways over the years may not be able to resist giving you a taste of your own medicine.  But if you have treated others well, they are likely to return the favor in kind and help you preserve your sanity and dignity in the process. 

Sure, there are instances when instant and even nasty firings make sense. An abrupt firing with a bit of public shaming might be wise if an employee commits such an awful or unethical act that you want to send the message that some behaviors will not be tolerated. But beware of using moral outrage as an excuse for your rash, stupid, and mean-spirited actions.

As Georgetown University's Christine Porath suggests, you are especially prone to treat people like dirt if you wield power over them, feel rushed, or are exhausted. If any or all of these pressures are at play, beware that an incompetent, lazy, or mean-spirited employee is especially likely to unleash your inner jerk.

As Dr. Jerome Groopman put it, sometimes the best advice is "Don't just do something, stand there." Slow down and imagine that it is a few days later-- and you are knee-deep in a shitshow that you’ve created with your impulsive, insulting, and humiliating actions. Sometimes imaging an ugly future can spare you the pain of having to live in it.

The most common problem with terminations is that they don’t happen as fast as they should. Once the decision has been made to pull the plug and start over, don’t dilly-dally in the misguided hope that — somehow — things may still work out. They never do. Remember: It’s not the people you fire who make your life miserable. It’s the ones you don’t, to borrow the words of Dick Grote and at the end of the day, the power is yours.