Now the Joker knew how to fire people!
In the "original" Batman movie, Jack Nicholson aka. the Joker, got one thing right when he fired Bob. He got right to the point!
Once you’ve completed all your preparations, it’s time to let your employee go. Remember, the nature of this conversation and the amount of humanity you show during its course, will leave an indelible stain for better or worse with this employee. So, put aside any ill-will or negative feelings you might have for this person, their lack of performance, and make their last day as painless as possible for everyone.
You want to have a professional somewhat matter of fact conversation, but it should also be sympathetic, and compassionate, which isn’t always an easy recipe!
Here are some tips for the actual conversation when firing an employee:
1. Do it early in the day. It’s demeaning to have someone put in a full day of work only to then let them go. It also gives them some time to process the information during the day.
2. Modern offices are often designed like fishbowls, so find a space with limited visibility from the outside. You don’t need an audience watching.
3. Bring tissues. Really. They don't need to be on display, but have them ready.
4. Make sure an HR rep or your direct manager is in attendance. You never want to get into a situation where there wasn’t a third-party witness if there is some ugliness afterwards.
5. Review the flow of the conversation with this other person, so it looks like you are both, “Reading off the same script”.
6. Obviously, if it’s your employee being let go you lead the talk and the 3rd party is present for support purposes.
7. Don’t dance around the topic or give a long winded 20 minute introduction. (See the Joker for assistance!)
8. Leave yourself enough time. Sometimes these conversations last two minutes and an employee says, “Ok, got it, see you,” and will leave. Other times an employee will want time to digest, will have questions, and may even want to pick your brain about a career move. Don’t shortchange them and say, “Sorry, I have a meeting I have to get to.”
9. Spare them the pep-talk! “This is for the best, you will certainly find a better job”, etc. It may be all true but it’s not what they want to hear from you from you at this moment in time.
10. Think about how they are getting home. If they carpool with someone and they aren’t driving that day, you might consider ordering a cab for them. Same if the bus they take only runs a few times a day or something like that.
11. Leave them with a kind word, a smile, and as positive feeling as possible under the circumstances.
I have seen employees get fired and walk out of the office with their head held high, due to the caring nature in which the process was executed. I have also seen otherwise positive employees turn positively disgruntled when the process of being let go is executed in an inhumane and cold manner.
Part of being a manager and a leader is having the ability to handle tough situations with care and concern for the other party. The words “I am terribly sorry to have to do this” don’t have to be empty and meaningless. You can be both terribly sorry and still feel it is in the best interest of the company and this individual to let them go.