Especially during our prolonged pandemic, and right before we begin the holiday season, firing someone is not fun. The impact on the person getting fired is both obvious and tragic. But the person letting employees go is also affected. As the boss or HR representative, you’ll likely feel sadness, guilt, and frustration along the way.
Those emotions, of course, are natural. However, solid business practices set a framework for minimizing the emotional toll – on both the person getting fired, and the person doing the firing.
Letting Employees Go with Empathy and Compassion
Headway Capital found 15 temptations faced by managers as the firing process begins. And to help you through each “we need to let you go” conversation, their new infographic includes 15 better approaches.
For example, you may have cooked up a long and convoluted reason for the firing. Instead, lead with the bad news: “I’ve called you in today because we need to let you go.” Then follow with brief, clear reasons. Throughout the process, be diplomatic without offering excuses you think might cushion the truth.
Protecting feelings, though, doesn’t mean we must become sympathetic. In fact, sympathy is a non-starter because it focuses on the emotions of the person delivering the news. As an empathetic boss, you and the employee are better served by actively listening to the employee. Your job as you listen: To figure out how they’re feeling – and to adjust your strategy as appropriate.
“Bosses must recognize the difference between empathy and compassion (which are useful in this context) and sympathy or sorrow (which can be counterproductive),” advises Joel Peterson, chair of JetBlue and Professor of Management at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.
Finally, as emotions reach their peak, remember that termination isn’t, in the long-term, always a terrible thing. Studies have shown that (for some positions) nine out of ten terminated employees find a new job that’s equal to or better than the job they held previously. Of course, it’s not wise to mention this while firing an employee!
Being fired is never easy. And neither is doing the firing. Keeping these 15 tips in mind will help you prepare and execute your termination plan. Still, don’t worry if you make a mistake or two. Because in what is often an emotional conversation, everybody makes mistakes – even the person responsible for letting employees go.