In the world of business, entrepreneurship, management, leadership… there are going to be occasions when letting someone go is necessary. It is never easy, but necessary. It is important to recognize why you are letting the person go, and that you let the person go.
When it comes time to let the person so, as the leader, you need to have done everything possible to help the person succeed. This includes training, educating, mentoring, finding the right fit (the right job in the organization), counseling, motivating, etc. If you have done each of these to the best of your ability (and this is not an all-inclusive list), and the individual is not receptive, then you can justifiably say it is time to go.
Generally, when you hire someone in the first place, they are perceived to be technically competent and have the right “stuff” to get the job done. They have the experience, the savvy, charisma, knowledge, etc. When you bring them on board, reality sets in and some of these attributes may not have been quite accurate. This is where your leadership comes into play. Work with them and help them become what they have the potential to become. When you have done all that you (and they) can do, and it is not working out, then it is best to move on.
Why? Well, it may seem obvious, but they are not the right fit for your team and organization – even if they think so. As the leader, you must invest the time to ensure they are the right fit. If they are technically competent yet do not get along with others, how is this affecting your organizational climate or culture? Are they charismatic yet incompetent and contribute insignificantly to your mission, how does this affect your team? Probably not very well, if at all.
Additionally, you are doing them a disservice by keeping them on a team that they are not ready for (for whatever reason). Many people do not like to fire (let them go, terminate, encourage them to move on…) because it is uncomfortable and it will devastate the individual. If you, as the leader, have done your job the entire time, then their departure from the team should be expected – because you have helped them, trained them, given them opportunities, etc. At some point, you may (should) have even told them they need to get on track or be prepared to move on – in a more personable manner of course. The point is, them moving on should not really be a surprise.
Whenever terminating anyone for any reason, do it yourself. Do not delegate this to someone else when you should be doing it. In many cases this works. In a small business, the employee works directly for you. In a team, the individual likely reports to you or a subordinate leader. In a department, you are responsible for your team – so you own everything that goes on (or doesn’t), and that includes the uncomfortable “letting go”.
I know there are organizations that have human resource policies that require the HR department to be more involved, or you come across a hostile employee that needs security to escort them out of the door, but for all intents and purposes, you as the leader need to tell them what is happening and why.
Going back to the why helps the individual know actually why they are being let go. And actually tell them why they are being let go. Giving them some generic “this is not the right fit” does not help them move on. Give them actual reasons why they are being let go. This will help them improve for their next adventure. Remember, just because they were not the right fit for your team or organization, does not mean they are not the right fit for another. So, keep this in mind. If it was truly just a fit issue, help them find something else in another organization which could suit them. This could be your last bit of leadership you can provide them – helping them move on and seeing the benefit in doing so.
However, if they are hostile, always late, unproductive, or anything that you just cannot stand behind, a reference may not be a good idea – but you still need to tell them so they know where to improve.
It is your responsibility
The last reason I will mention why you must do the deed, is it is your responsibility to do so. This is not one of those actions that you should delegate. If you own the small business, are the leader of a small team or department, etc. then you have the responsibility to have that conversation. I look at it this way, if I am the ultimate decision-maker on hiring them, then it is my responsibility to tell them it is time to move on (and why, of course).
I have seen cases where the terminating of an employee happens by a middle-manager, who was never part of the hiring process, who barely dealt with the individual except for punitive actions (while the true manager – notice I didn't say leader – provided the positive reinforcement), leaving the middle-manager in the “bad-guy” position. This destroys the middle-manager (or whomever this job was delegated to) because they are left doing the dirty work. This makes the individual strongly dislike their job, the organization, and likely does not see you as their leader.
To sum this up, lead your team and do everything you can to help them succeed. If, in the end, they are not suited to your team, you let them go and tell them why.
I would like to know what you think about this. Send us an email or comment below.
Until next time…