The only ones who like firing people are psychotic nut jobs. (I had other words but Maria has an average number of swear words per post for this blog and I am saving up for when I really need them.)
Someone was complaining to me today about employees that needed to be fired (not employees here at 7 Generation Games – you guys all rock). Firing an employee is just about the least desirable task that an entrepreneur can imagine, right up there with announcing the company is going out of business and answering calls from the press about your newly hired vice-president who turns out to have a felony record for arson.
There is no “easy” way to fire people but here are a few tips to make it a little less painful
- Make up your mind. Are you going to fire this person or give him/ her a second – or third, fourth or fifth – chance?
- Be clear on your reasons, at least to yourself. Is it because this person is not performing – a salesperson who is not selling, a coder who is not coding, an artist whose drawing consists of stick figures? Does Bob not get along with anyone else in the company and every meeting leaves you reaching for your ulcer medicine or a vodka and tonic?
- Do it now. If you have decided that Bob is not working out in your company and does not seem likely to work out within the time you can afford to wait – and as a startup, time is not your friend – then fire him today. That doesn’t mean you have to walk him out the door but it does mean you need to give him your decision and a firm end date today. What is the benefit of waiting? You are wasting your money and your employee’s time in a job that is not being performed well.
- Do it face to face. Don’t be a coward.
- Hand Roberta a written letter of termination stating that her last day will be X day. Give any details such as severance pay, notice, requirements to get the last paycheck, e.g., whether it will be mailed.
- DON’T get into an argument. Don’t go into the details of who said what when. Hopefully, you have been providing this employee feedback all along and this firing should not come as a complete surprise. It’s your company and you have decided that Bob or Roberta is not meeting your needs. Maybe you are wrong and will rue the day. That is a risk you are willing to take, along with all of the other risks of being an entrepreneur.
- DON’T get emotional. Firing someone sucks. It means you admit you made a mistake hiring that person. It means they have been costing you more than they are worth for some time. You have wasted time and money. Also, this person is going to be mad at you. They may have friends in the company who will also be mad at you. However much it sucks for you, it sucks more for them. This person now has no job and has been told he or she isn’t good at this one. Hand over the termination letter, say what you have to say and then shut up. There is no way to make this not painful.
Generally, I do not offer to give the person a letter of recommendation because if he or she hasn’t performed well at my company, what am I going to say?
“Bob couldn’t code in PHP for shit so we fired him but maybe he’s learned since he was here. What the hell, you might as well give him a chance!”
Personally, when I have to fire someone, I don’t think any less of that person or wish him or her ill. I’ve never been fired from a job but there were probably times I took another job before they could fire me. I have made my share of mistakes, and probably part of someone else’s share, too. I’ve tried to learn from those mistakes – one of which has been waiting too long to fire people.
We have a great team, none of whom should be fired.