In his book .It's inevitable: At some point, you're going to have to fire folks. This is really difficult for a variety of reasons. Here are some ways of looking at it and tactics that may help make this sensitive issue a bit easier.
You might be surprised to find that most nonperformers are ready to go. No matter who you are, consistently under-performing doesn't feel good. Assuming your nightmare employee isn’t psychotic, it’s quite possible they feel incompetent from all the browbeating and warnings. Put them out of their misery. When they wake up tomorrow, they’ll probably feel relieved they no longer have a job they couldn’t perform well. Think of this as you assisting your nightmares to find their true purpose at this particular point in time.
Let’s assume you’ve taken responsibility for letting nightmares go when it’s time. You’re finally ready to have the tough conversation. At this point, the termination conversation should not in any way be about the big, bad, bully boss firing an innocent, unassuming employee. It’s simply about delivering the consequences ordered by an employee who has consistently failed to meet clearly communicated expectations.
If that's the case, what legitimate reason do you have to apologize? There isn’t one. Apologizing makes it sound like you are to blame for the employee’s performance, which is not the case. Don’t give any room to allow the conversation to slip into a mud-slinging contest.
Instead of apologizing, here are 10 dos and don’ts to consider when firing employee nightmares:
1. Be familiar with unemployment laws (and have appropriate documentation).
2. Draft responses for questions the individual may ask.
3. Prepare in advance how to divvy up workload.
4. Plan the day and time (if possible).
5. Have someone else in the room.
6. Focus on the performance (not the person).
7. Be respectful.
8. Give the person space to share their thoughts/feelings.
9. Be specific about what will happen next (pay, benefits, unused vacation, etc.).
10. Keep it quick (10−15 minutes max).
2. Offer advice.
3. Leak your plans to others (unless they'll be in the room).
5. Take responsibility for the failure.
6. Focus on the person.
7. Do it in public.
8. Talk about your own feelings.
9. Defend yourself or your decision.
10. Babble or try to break the ice.
Here are some words you can tailor to get you going in the tough discussion:
Randy, after reviewing your work performance for this quarter, we've concluded that this job isn't a good fit for your skills. Because of that, today is your last day. I am sure you have a lot on your mind, but are there any issues or questions you feel you want to share or discuss with me at this time? You will have time to gather your personal items, and Lisa can assist you.
One way to allow someone to save face is to offer them the opportunity to resign. In that way, they can move on to other employment opportunities without having the stigma of being “fired.” That may give you some wiggle room to offer your nightmare a more positive way out, if that’s something you'd prefer.
You both did your best, but it isn’t working out at this particular time. The business needs a change. There -- you just did it!
I’m sure you’re familiar with Nike’s slogan: “Just Do It.” Well, how about “Just Did It” instead? That could be your phrase for when you’ve decided someone needs to go.
Trust yourself. Don’t procrastinate. There comes a point where the thinking is done and the action needs to begin. Continuing to ruminate about your decision to finally fire your nightmare costs you time and energy and robs your team of mental resources and morale. Don’t continue to allow nightmares to haunt your soul. “Just Did It.”
As the small-business owner, your role is to ensure your business goals are being met. When someone consistently fails to contribute to the strategic direction of the business, whether because of a lack of skill or some other reason, you must remember that you are fulfilling your role when you let that person go. It may not be easy, but in the end, everyone ultimately benefits from getting rid of nightmares that won’t support your consistent message.
Chris McIntyre is the author of The Roadmap to Freedom: A Small-Business Owner's Guide to Connecting People to a Core Message (Entrepreneur Press, 2012). He is a motivational speaker, executive coach and consultant focused on peak productivity. He is based in San Diego, Calif.