In Coaching, Employee Satisfaction, human resources, Leadership, Leadership Development

Firing someone is among a manager’s least favorite things to do. For anyone with a heart, it’s the dreaded duty that comes with the title. However, for any leader that’s committed to creating an extraordinary team, it’s an inevitable reality.

When you’re put in this position, where you must let someone go, how do you do this well? There’s no secret solution that fits everyone across the board – but there are some ways to navigate this terrifying territory. Donald Trump’s approach on the Apprentice is not the model to follow. As a result, here are five straight-forward suggestions to do better.


FIRING SOMEONE HUMANELY NOT HORRIFICALLY IS A HARD FOR MANAGERS1. Caution. Nobody should be fired without some forewarning, unless the person is breaking the law or known and accepted protocols. Make sure you are coaching your employees effectively which will minimize those that need firing. (See my post, 8 Steps to High Performance Coaching.) Therefore, give employees at least one notice that outlines your concerns and shares your expectations. If an employee isn’t given a fair shot, it’s just not right to send him packing.

2. Compassion. Consider the circumstances of the employee. A level of empathy and sensitivity is critical when you fire someone because despite how uncomfortable you are, this is one of the worst things for an employee to experience. Remember, it impacts their career, livelihood, and family.

3. Candid. Don’t drag the conversation out longer than it needs to last-usually a few minutes. Get to the point. Be straight-forward without losing your sincerity. If you sugar coat your message, it’ll get lost in translation. If you are too harsh or judgmental, you’ll leave them feeling hopeless and resentful. Do your best to balance hope and honesty.

4. Conserve. Maintain your professionalism. Most importantly, prepare for the conversation, and consult your boss or human resources for advice. Reserve a space that’s private. You want to deliver the news to them in a way that provides them with tangible feedback to apply in the future. When done well this can be a developmental process for an employee.

5. Complement. Identify strengths in the employees you fire, so that you explain to them what they have to offer in other environments. If you make it solely about what they’re lacking, they’ll leave feeling worthless. If you know of an opportunity that seems to be suitable for them, share these options with them. Consequently, be genuine. If you are a fake – you’re harming, not helping.


I leave you with a quote from Steve Jobs that will bring some hope to this hard process. The reason I share it is because it demonstrates that letting someone go can sometimes free individuals to move in unexpected ways. “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

In conclusion, firing someone is just one of the tough tasks of a leader. But if it’s done well, your team will be better off, and even the employee you fire can be freed to find a better fit.

By the way, do you want to learn proven approaches? Do you want to become a better leader? If so, I suggest you check out this complimentary eBook: How to Motivate-No-Inspire Employees: 10 Keys to Employee Engagement.

FIRING SOMEONE HUMANELY NOT HORRIFICALLY IS HARD FOR MANAGERSAlso, go here for our RealTime Learning and Training leadership and personal development website. Micro-learning at your fingertips!

Finally, see this for details on Rick’s latest book, click here: Superstar Leadership.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Patrick Loke

    In my opinion, the sincerity of letting go of the employee needs to be well planned, communicated, and compensated in view of the employee’s circumstances, especially when there is no fault from the employee. Be as human as possible, just like how you want yourself to be treated when you are in the employee’s situation.

    • Rick Conlow

      Hi Patrick,
      I agree. Unfortunately we know that termination often is not done with respect. Good leaders learn how to fire humanely.

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