Bad firings can be like bad break-ups. I know a professional who felt ambushed when fired by an angry email, a leader who still regrets an impulsive parking lot dismissal, and a longtime employee who was marched out the back door without so much as a goodbye.
How leaders lead up to that final termination conversation matters. I’m sure you’ve also seen the anger and angst that bad firings produce in our family, friends, and coworkers.
I’ve also known leaders who have ended professional relationships while still maintaining a calm connection and even a personal relationship (more about how to accomplish that in a future post).
We don’t have to conduct a “Donald Trump style firing,” by hurling an angry and loud, “you’re fired!” When anticipating the possible end of a professional relationship leaders and managers have much to consider. By taking a proactive approach, “gotcha” firings and their resulting ill-will can be avoided.
Here are 5 things to consider before dismissing an employee.
- Get clarity. The best time to think about the kind of post-dismissal employee relationship we want is pre-dismissal. When we get clear about what outcome we want we can work backwards to determine what steps will achieve it.
- Have a “what’s at stake” conversation. When an employee is dismissed there should be no surprises (except in rare cases of theft or other egregious acts). When we tell an employee that “your opportunity to continue working here is at stake,” they give an entirely different level of attention to areas of improvement. In her best-selling book, Fierce Conversations, author Susan Scott has a great model for having these needed confrontation conversations.
- Create a plan. Here are three questions to answer before embarking down the road to dismissal:
- How much time will I give this employee to address the issues?
- What evidence will I see to know that the employee has made the expected growth?
- What documentation do I need to maintain to satisfy the legal parameters of my locale and/or organization?
- Provide pressure and support. The phrase “pressure and support” was coined by educational researcher, Michael Fullan. Fullan describes pressure in terms of the application of positive pressure in the form of clear expectations and a sense of urgency leading to increased motivation and effort that produces good results. The support may come in the form of coaching, monitoring progress during one-on-ones, and ongoing feedback to maintain momentum. Pressure and support are a powerful combination.
- Act swiftly. When we have devoted ample time to the above steps and don’t see the results we have targeted, it’s time to make a decision. When we make it swiftly and act on it with care we earn the respect of our entire team. We are upholding the values we want to encourage and others will respect us for it.
During this process we need to keep our feedback ongoing and accurate. When we feel that we’ve done everything we can to help an employee succeed we are better able to take the action we need to let someone go and we can do so without guilt.
So, I’d say that when we consider the end of a professional relationship before it comes, if we spot a former employee at the grocery store we won’t feel like ducking into the next aisle. What would you say?
Other related posts:
Trimming the Deadwood: How to Know When an Employee Should Go
One-on-Ones: The Bridge to Move Employees, Leaders, and Organizations from Mediocre to MagnificentUnset Expectations Lead to Unmet Expectations
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