Most business owners have a difficult time firing someone. Firing someone touches a wide range of emotions; guilt, anger, betrayal, rage, disgust, and finally relief. Why is firing someone so hard? Firing people is hard, as humans avoid conflict whenever possible. Telling someone they are losing their job is tough. Telling someone with kids, family issues, and other problems that they are fired is even harder.
When should you fire someone?
The first time you think of it.
I’ve heard a wide range of ideas when you should decide to fire someone. The best time to fire someone is the first time you think of it. What does that mean? It means when that employee starts slipping and you think about cutting them, you need to make plan to fire them. Why? Once the thought enters your mind, all confidence in that employee is shattered for you. You’ll second guess every mistake they make, and carry a sense of regret for not doing it sooner. Something is wrong with the employment situation around this person, and you’re not going to fix it. So who’s mistake is it?
Why is it your mistake?
You hired this person, and under your management they underperformed. You need to own this mistake and learn from it. Review your hiring process to prevent poor hiring decisions from happening again. I take firing someone very seriously; I made a mistake that is costing the company time, money, resources, and morale with a bad hire. It’s easy to place blame on the employee, but the reality is this person slipped through our hiring system. We made a poor investment as a manager. Respect the mistake, learn your lesson, and move forward. The future determines the present, not the past.
Make a list, and check it twice.
So before we actually fire them, we need review our pre-fire checklist. Make a document, review all of these items, take notes, and don’t screw this up.
- What went wrong? Were they a poor fit, underskilled, or deficient in some way for the role?
- What role does this person play? What do we need to prepare for to prevent an impact to our company or customers?
- What have I documented about firing them? Some states need justification on firing someone. Having a listing of attendance issues, write-ups for issues, etc is key.
- Do I have a signed non-compete and non-disclosure agreement on file?
- What systems and services do they have access to? How do I quickly lock them out? Do I have access to all of the systems?
- What company property do they have? Do I have an inventory?
- Do they maintain any major customer or vendor relationships? Who do I need to notify after I terminate them?
Review the list with your managers, and verify that you’ve covered all of the threats to your business. Personally, I like to write all of these items up, set it aside for a day, then revisit the reasons and notes without emotion. In my next post, I’ll cover the right time to actually call the person in, and cut their employment.