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Firing is Never Easy But it is Necessary

In a prior blog, I talked about turnover, mostly from quitting or where you are forced to fire someone, but it reminded me of another issue. The issue of reacting too slow. First and foremost, letting someone go is not fun, it is never fun and never will be, the only time I haven’t felt uncomfortable letting someone go is when they did something egregious, like theft. It is okay to be uncomfortable, you are disrupting someone’s life, you need to remove some emotion.

This next part can seem counterintuitive: Not letting someone go that deserves to be let go is worse for the individual than just doing it. I have seen way too many people talk themselves out of letting an employee go as they are fearful of the fallout it will have on the organization or on the person themselves. I take the approach that letting go is the best thing for the employee, quite simply keeping them does them injustice and it’s best to rip the bandaid off. There is a term “fire fast, hire slow” but all too often we reverse that, we hire fast to fill a gap and fire slow to not cause a gap, we’re being selfish when we follow this path.

On the employee side, what I have seen typically happen when someone is let go is that they are in shock that they are getting let go, no matter how much direct feedback they have received they are never prepared. I have seen people on performance improvement plans utterly surprised they were let go. I assume this up to either no self-awareness or flat out denial. Of course, there is the bad manager that hasn’t provided the feedback and it is a surprise. The shock is a bundle of emotions wrapped up, they likely are immediately wondering about their family or how they will find a new job, this would be a natural response to any sort of life-altering situation.

The one thing I always tell myself when I have to let someone go is the following: this may seem bad to them now, but in the long run this will be the best thing for them. I have watched people end up exactly where they should’ve been too many times and stringing them along out of fear of letting them go is unfair to them and prevents them from doing something that aligns better.

On the company side of things, yes it is painful to create a gap but it isn’t insurmountable and shouldn’t be what drives your decision. If you go six months with someone that isn’t performing because they are a person and you don’t want a gap instead of letting them go you do more harm, you go six months of underperformance versus replacing them, training and launching off with someone more aligned.

Letting someone go is never easy but it is necessary and it is best to do what is right for everyone. Don’t worry about the long term effects, do what is right at the right time.