8 Things I Learnt After Firing An Employee

One of the worst parts of being the boss is making the call to fire someone. It doesn’t matter if the employee deserves it or not; it’s an unsettling, uncomfortable, and undesirable situation that every manager would rather not do. It’s not exactly a good feeling to tell someone you are taking their job away, especially during such times of scathing unemployment in India when a new job is hard to find. 

There are a lot of things that managers who decide to fire and employees that get fired go through mentally and emotionally. However, before making the call, you’ll go through a range of emotions that may or may not cloud your judgement. So, to make a rational decision, consider these factors before pulling the trigger: 

#1 This may have been you, not them. 

When children don’t succeed at something, the parents so play some role, it may not be the root cause, but it plays a part nonetheless. The same is true for managers, supervisors, founders, and any other sort of employer. Employers need to clarify the indicators and factors that will be taken into consideration when judging performance. This will help the process, in that, there is accountability on both sides when employees aren’t able to perform.

While I’m not saying that these mistakes are entirely the employers’ and that employees are generally in the right, there is something managers can do as the leading figure, subjectively as well as objectively. “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

#2 It’s Okay To Feel Anxious

Whether it’s your first or 10th termination meeting, it doesn’t seem to get easier and feels nerve-racking before firing an employee. You are breaking huge news to them that will effectively ruin and significantly impact their family, friends, and general lifestyle. You’re taking away a source of income for them and crushing their ego. In such a situation, it’s normal for you to feel horrible. 

#3 Firing Implies A Communication Failure

Unless they commit a direct violation of company policy and/or norms that requires them to be fired immediately, the employee should know that they’re close to being fired. If your news surprises or shocks them, that means there was a lack of communication. 

It’s the supervisors (manager or boss) role to tell and intimate employees about their tenure and performance in the company, to provide them due to feedback to know how they are performing at work. If employees don’t know their mistake and the extent of their under-performance, they’ll continue to work the way they do. 

#4 This Went on for Too Long

Many managers avoid or delay making the call even when they know they have to cut someone off. Usually, to avoid dealing with it, which feels like the easy way out. In reality, however, delaying the unavoidable will not make it easier to fire the said employee. On the contrary, delay in making this decision will do you more harm than good, and you can jeopardize your relationship with the employee and also the relationship and image of the organization

#5 The Employee may Have Been Better Than you Thought

It’s almost cliche to show the way out to employees when they’re underperforming or not meeting organizational standards, even if there is potential and a chance for improvement and growth. I’ll emphasize that there is no mandate, but there is an individual benefit and a lot of scope to hold onto employees who are familiar with the company and the people. They might not be the right people for the job, but they’re ready to learn and grow, and that’s why they’ve stayed and tried.

If you’re considering bidding adieu to an employee, make sure that there are no other options and not much room for improvement that you’ve left unexplored. If they haven’t performed according to external standards, give them new and other responsibilities, then look for opportunities they can be reassigned before you show them the door.

#6 Make Sure It’s Professional

When two employees are underperforming and everyone in the company knows it, there has to be a sensible solution that decides who stays and who goes. Now, let’s consider that the one who is struggling more, who gets along well with the boss, stays, and the one who isn’t struggling as much performance-wise but who the boss doesn’t personally prefer is made to leave. To be perfectly candid, personal relationships are crucial in business and work, but these relationships must not cloud work-related judgments and decisions. Keep all things in the office strictly business, not personal.

Further, you’re the boss. So go beyond the petty mindset and start thinking like the person-in-charge. As the leader, you can’t go around making decisions like a high-school football captain, recklessly and autocratically. There are responsibilities you have, commitments to fulfill, and, most importantly, business objectives to achieve, which will become virtually unattainable if decisions serve to pleasures first and businesses second. In all probability, the employee who you don’t adore as much may be the better asset for your organization.

“Never mix business with personal matters – it just leads to damaged relationships, poor business decisions, or both.”

#7 Was there Feedback About Performance

When you think of someone being fired, it can be easy to assume that they were under-performing consistently for a length of time and that they have feedback about their performance. However, that’s not always the case, and unless they’re involuntarily terminated, they deserve to know the reasons for their dismissal.

Of the 1,050 people surveyed by organizational psychologist Karlyn Borysenko:

  • 75% said their manager never met with them to discuss their concerns before firing them.
  • 59% said they had not received any performance review from their manager.
  • Of those who had received a performance review, 87% said there was no indication that they were at any risk of being fired.
  • 90% reported they were not put on any performance improvement plan (PIP) before being fired.
  • Of the 10% who were on a PIP, 73% said they did not believe the PIP was a fair assessment of their performance.

#8 You’re Not in Total Control

How people will react to the news will be different, unpredictable, and can sometimes get out of hand. People may get emotional or start making personal comments about you, their managers, coworkers, and even the company. They may not have the most polite things to say, but it’s not their fault either because they may not have seen this coming, and you need to remind yourself that although you can’t control their behavior, you can try to stay assertive and take charge of the situation yourself.

This can mean interrupting them, even risking coming off as rude, but remember that if it goes out of hand, the concerned person can start spiraling and land in a worse situation. To avoid their suffering and any professional repercussions, it’s best to eliminate doubts then and there. Otherwise, it’ll later transpire in your head as a “what if?”

It Had to be Done

Firing someone is a hard task, and if you’re trying to do it right, it will mainly benefit the employee and the organization. The emotions one goes while being fired as well as firing someone else from an organization can be unsettling, but if they’re dealt with in a composed manner, it can be easy. Give your full cooperation and consideration to the employee and treat them with courtesy without any expectations from them because they’ll be going through a sea of emotions as well. So, be prepared for anything that may happen once you drop the bomb and be as prepared as you can be, professionally and personally.

Ankit Bagga

Ankit Bagga

Senior Marketing & Product Manager