3 Ways To Get Over Your Fear Of Firing People

Here are some things that no one in business enjoys:

1. Three hour PowerPoint presentations, with each slide consisting of small text.

2. Conference calls at 4:45 on a sunny Friday afternoon.

3. Firing people.

While you can get around those first two, letting people go is an unavoidable reality of business. When you work for a larger company, you can sometimes delegate that unpleasantness to HR, but when you’re an entrepreneur the responsibility falls entirely on your shoulders.

No one enjoys hurting or disappointing people, so many of us put off these difficult conversations.

We spend months agonized and stressed while paying for sub-par work or continuing work relationships that just aren’t the right fit.

By the time we finally let someone go, we’ve probably fired them a million times in our minds, but they could be completely blindsided. They end up unnecessarily surprised and we feel needlessly guilty.

1. Schedule a performance review

Yearly performance evaluations are a cornerstone of corporate life, but very few entrepreneurs use them. They’re an invaluable tool and they might even help your employee improve so much you don’t need to let them go!

Schedule time to talk with your ‘trouble’ employee and work through their positives and negatives. (Here’s a great article on how to perform a performance review.) Make sure to point out the problematic issues and give them a framework for making the changes you want to see. Give them clear examples of the caliber of work you’d like to see from them. Our ‘Make A Pact offering is a less intimidating version of a performance review.

Hopefully, your employee will make those changes. If they don’t, at least they won’t be blindsided when you let them go, and that will make it easier for you to do it.

2. Reframe your own mindset about firing

There’s absolutely no need to beat yourself up about this. Very few people get fired from jobs they love and if someone is constantly missing deadlines or making major mistakes, it’s probably because (on some level) they’re unhappy with the position. When you let them go, you’re giving them the opportunity to find a job that’s a better fit for them and you’re creating space on your team for someone who is really, truly excited to be there. That’s a win/win for everyone!

3. Be honest and direct

Don’t sugarcoat the situation or beat around the bush so much that your employee doesn’t understand what’s happening. If the position isn’t working because their performance isn’t up to par, diplomatically and professionally tell them that. If your logistic or business needs are changing, tell them that. Ultimately, life will go on for both of you – and you’ll both probably be happier with other arrangements!

If you’ve given your employee plenty of notice and support and things still aren’t working, you probably just need to let them go. If you need help phrasing this potentially awkward conversation, I wrote up a short script for you:

“Thanks for making time to meet with me. I appreciate [x, y, z] work you have done. And yet, as we spoke about, I’m also looking for [a, b, c]. I’ve given it a lot of thought and I’ve decided this position isn’t the right fit for you or me. [insert reason it’s not working.] I think [x time frame] should give you enough time to wrap up any loose ends. Does that make sense? Do you have any questions for me? Let me know if there’s anything I can do to make this transition smoother.”

Letting someone go will never be easy, but these three steps will make it much less difficult.

Have you ever fired someone? What worked and what didn’t? Share your stories with us here!

Susan Drumm

Susan Drumm spent over a decade teaching companies like L’Oreal, Viacom and Condé Nast how to lead their teams towards multi-million dollar growth. Now she uses those same leadership skills to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses to seven-figure success. Your success as an entrepreneur depends on your ability to hire, inspire and lead team. Follow @DrummLeadership on Twitter and get Susan’s free ebook on hiring your dream VA here.

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