Letting People Go with Transparency and Dignity

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Never make enemies of people you “let go,” if you can help it.

“Every person who leaves goes on to represent your company. They can bad-mouth or praise.” Jack Welch

One wise business owner told me, “Sometimes I’m closer to people after I fire them than before.”

Turning bad to good:

  1. Never humiliate. Ask, “Is this how I’d like to be treated if I was let go?”
  2. Generous severance.
  3. Placement. Explore their strengths and help them find another position.
  4. Encourage. Being let go can be traumatic; express compassion.
  5. Stay in touch. The silent treatment costs you more than continued contact. Send emails, birthday cards, call to see how things are. Treating people like lepers makes your organization look like a leper colony.

Crimes, ethics, and other sticky situations:

Letting someone go for dishonesty is different from letting them go for poor performance. Ethics violations are quicker and easier, performance issues are long painful affairs.

Tell your organization the reasons. Here’s why:

  1. If you don’t tell your organization, they’ll make things up.
  2. Uncertainty and speculation drain energy and stall momentum.
  3. Enforcing high standards lifts everyone’s game; it makes you better. When they realize “John” was let go for lying to customers, you reinforce honesty.

The way you fire says more about you than the way you hire. Always act in the best interests of your organization and those you let go.

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How can leaders improve the firing process?

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