Letting You Go: How to Not Lose Yourself When You Fire Someone

The current economic repercussions from the global pandemic have left businesses and organizations all over the world struggling financially. It has even forced them to take a closer look at their budgets and make cuts just to stay afloat. While terminating an employee may be entirely necessary, it isn’t always an easy thing to do. In fact, it’s easy for managers to feel personally responsible, sad, frustrated, or even angry at the thought of having to let go of one of their own. Whether an employee is underperforming or simply the victim of budget cuts, termination is never a pleasant experience. That said, there are ways you can terminate an employee with empathy. Here are some best tips for letting someone go with dignity and compassion. 

Prepare for the Conversation in Advance

It is important to prepare for the conversation ahead of time so you aren’t fumbling over your words and you can communicate your reasons for termination in a caring and compassionate way. Make sure you know exactly what you plan to say and leave room for the employee to ask questions or respond. 

Help Them Find Another Opportunity

If you feel like the employee was a valuable asset, offer to write them a letter of recommendation and possibly even offer to connect them with someone who can help them with a new career path. If you worked with them for a while, you probably know their strengths and skills so you might offer to assist them with finding a company or position in which they could excel. At the very least, offer to be a reference for any future employment opportunities. By offering assistance during this difficult time, employers are showing the same compassion and commitment to people who showed their company the same. 

Give Fair Warning

No one wants to be blindsided with termination. It should be the last step in a careful and considered process. By the time termination is rolling around, the employee should not feel surprised. If they were underperforming, they should have been given opportunities to improve their performance and they should have been made aware that failure to do so could result in termination. In instances where the employee doesn’t agree with the decision, remember to be kind but firm in the decision. 


Distinguish Between the Job and the Employee

A termination is not about the person. It is important to distinguish this difference in order to keep the dignity of the employee intact. Remind the employee of their skills and talents and let them know how much you respect them as a person. When they feel good about themselves, they can better accept the reason for the termination. 

Be Mindful of Their Feelings

Getting terminated can be extremely emotional. Not only can it cause a tremendous amount of fear and worry, but it can be exacerbated by embarrassment. Oftentimes, the terminated employee will worry about other employees finding out so you can show compassion by helping them save face with their colleagues. Give them a narrative that they can share with others and be empathetic as to how this situation might make them feel.