Despite you and your HR team’s best efforts, it happens — sometimes you make a bad hire. Even with the most thorough, exhaustive (and exhausting) recruitment practices, it’s inevitable that you’ll occasionally bring a bad egg on board.
And a bad egg can stink up an entire workplace in no time at all.
That’s why leaders should waste no time in letting a bad hire go. An employee that isn’t living up to your organization’s mission and expectations is more than just an isolated imperfection in your workforce. Their inadequacies can and will bring down your other employees as well.
By not fulfilling their responsibilities, a bad hire will make life harder for everyone around them. In addition to hindering your company’s own internal performance, a bad hire can also lead to problems with clients. Keeping them on board is something that no business can afford.
The tired old mantra of “hire slow, fire fast” is old and tired for good reason — it holds just as true today as it did when it was first coined sometime back in the dark ages. In fact, most clichés stick around because there’s at least some truth to them. And this one is no exception.
But while just about every leader will agree with the mantra in principal, few will actually execute it. And that’s not because most leaders are incompetent. It’s because most leaders, and most people in general, have a heart.
I personally hate firing people. Telling someone that they no longer have a job is like telling them their dog just died. It hurts a lot, and it usually comes as a shock. But just as there’s a right and wrong way to tell someone they’ve just lost a beloved pet, there’s also a right and wrong way to tell someone they’ve just lost their job.
Don’t get me wrong — it’ll never be easy. But there are things you can do to keep the best interest of both the company and the (soon-to-be former) employee in mind.
Do it Face-to-Face
There are certain subjects that just aren’t appropriate for e-mail or text message: deaths, break-ups, wedding proposals…and yes, firings. Informing your employee of their dismissal face-to-face shows respect for the individual, and the gravity of the situation. Firing someone in-person is also the best way to guard against misinterpretations and confusion. It will allow you to clarify your position, answer any of the employee’s questions, and let them down easy.
On the flip-side of that equation is that firing someone face-to-face can make it much harder to stick to your guns. In my experience, most people take the news with dignity and poise. But some simply aren’t able to hold back their emotions. Some will try to plead their case (and sometimes compellingly), while others will break right out into tears. You can’t fault someone in either of those cases, but you also can’t allow the difficulty of the moment to sway you from your decision. If you start to waver, you’ll not only jeopardize your business, you’ll also only cause your employee further suffering.
Let Other Team Members Know…and why
Immediately before or after firing someone, make sure to tell their coworkers what’s happening. Also, be sure to explain why you have decided to let them go. Without sharing that “why”, other employees will start generating their own theories and speculations. If you allow those things to take root, you risk encouraging gossip, and sometimes fear. When a team member is fired, many people will begin fearing for their own jobs if the reasons behind the dismissal aren’t made clear.
While decisive action is key to a successful firing, it’s essential that you don’t make the decision lightly. No matter how frustrated you may become with an ineffectual employee, remember that they have families, bills, and other needs which will surely suffer from their dismissal.
“Hire slow, fire fast,” and always have compassion…
Let me know what you have found to work well to keep your culture strong. Find me on twitter: @bryanmiles