3 pitfalls to avoid when firing someone

Telling someone they are being let go is one of the most difficult things a leader is tasked with doing. However, firing is a necessary evil, and it is the leader's job to always keep the organization's best interest top of mind.

There are many questions to consider before beginning the conversation, according to the Harvard Business Review. What's the best way to deliver the news? Who else should be present during the conversation? How do you tell the rest of the team?

Management consultants named some important "don'ts" for firing, according to HBR, including:

1. Don't delay firing a poor performer when the cost of keeping him or her onboard is greater than the disruption of letting him or her go. The idea of firing someone you know and respect is unnerving, but a leader's personal agony should not delay the conversation, according to Jodi Glickman, author and founder of communication consulting firm Great on the Job. If the prospect of firing someone seems too difficult, think about the rest of the team — they're "the ones who are picking up the slack and maybe working longer hours because the person [you need to fire] is not doing his job properly," said Ms. Glickman, according to HBR. However, firing should be the end note of a fair and transparent process, evidenced by a trail of paperwork.

2. Don't give a long-winded speech. Your explanation to the person being fired should be simple and straightforward. "Go somewhere private and then lead with the punch line," said Ms. Glickman. After telling the person he or she is fired, be transparent about the reason why. When doing so, speak in the past tense to "[preclude] arguments about second chances," she said.

While it's natural to want to say "I'm sorry," when it comes to letting a poor performer go, it is important to convey personal responsibility for the situation rests on the individual, not the boss. Dick Grote, a management consultant in Dallas and author of How to Be Good at Performance Appraisals, suggests saying something along the lines of, "I'm sorry that the situation has gotten to this point," according to the report.

3. Don't expect human resources to do your dirty work. After you tell the employee the news, stick around and be prepared to answer any questions he or she might have. It is important to make HR your ally in the firing process. An HR rep should attend the meeting, both as legal assurance and because it may be more comfortable to have another person in the room.

While some management experts say the boss need not stay in the room after the initial announcement of the employee's termination, Mr. Grote disagrees. "Leadership demands compassion," he said, according to the report. "You were the agent of a terrible thing that has just happened in this person's life. Don't run away, and don't force HR to pick up the pieces." Bosses should be prepared to "speak as needed and answer questions as they come up."

Ms. Glickman added, "If you genuinely believe someone is a good person who has talents and abilities that could be useful elsewhere, tell her that you're very happy to provide a reference, or offer to make introductions," according to the report. She recommends holding the conversation at the end of the work day.

Informing the rest of the team. When telling the terminated employees' team the news, Ms. Glickman said "the message should be direct and straightforward," but should not reveal the reasons behind the decision, as that is confidential information. If you think people will begin to worry about their own jobs, you can assure them the person was fired for a specific reason, not because the organization is eliminating roles, she suggests.

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