I’ve had to fire employees over the years, both from my own company and as a manager for companies I’ve worked for. It’s never pleasant but it is possible to fire an employee without creating hostility.
Whenever possible, make the employee feel that the company isn’t the right fit and they would be better off elsewhere. When I worked in sales and had to fire someone, I used commission as my scapegoat. This works for any commission-based job.
Basically, sales associates in our office made minimum wage and commission on top of that. If you were great at your job, you wrote your own paycheck. If you weren’t good at your job, you worked for minimum wage. If someone wasn’t putting the sales on the board after two or three months, I had to let them go. I would sit down and talk to the person, asking questions like, “You haven’t been making very much money, have you?” If they say no, that’s your window to agree and fire them, gently. Stress the word really and talk about how hard it must be to work for minimum wage. I would plant the idea in their head that they could do better financially elsewhere. Sometimes the person would quit and save me the trouble of firing them.
Fire someone the right way by being honest but not too honest. Do let the person know why they are being fired so that they can improve on a particular behavior in the future, but there is such a thing as too much honesty.
I fired a young man once who really just rubbed me the wrong way. In the office he was polite, always friendly, and seemed to like working in sales. During breaks, he would stand outside smoking and basically put everyone else in the office down, talk about customers, and make jokes that were totally inappropriate. I couldn’t wait to fire him; I wanted him and his cocky, disrespectful, crude attitude gone and I told him so. That didn’t go so well. He became angry, stood up, yelled at me and put his finger in my face before slamming my office door. The lesson I learned was simple; too much honestly or attacking the person you’re firing is never a good idea and can actually be dangerous. Most people who are verbally attacked and feel backed into a corner will retaliate in someway. Fire this type of person by saying something more along the lines of, “You don’t seem very happy here Mr. X…and then go into the reasons that Mr. X seems unhappy and would be better off in a job he actually liked. I’ve tried this a few times now and it’s always gotten a much better result.
Firing someone can create incredible hostility. To avoid this, truly consider a fire list in the office. Ninety percent of employees you put on a fire list will freak themselves out so much that they quit, make it easy to fire them (and they know it’s coming), or will actually improve and become a great employee. Either way, you win.
In our sales office, we expected a certain number of sales per week at a minimum. If someone didn’t reach this number for four weeks in a row, I would gently inform them they were on the fire list. This list gave them two weeks to improve and if it didn’t happen I would have to let them go. For whatever reason, knowing their name was on the list would either create an employee who excelled or one who felt too nervous or scrutinized to improve. Many people would just throw their hands up and walk out.
My friends tell me that I can talk anyone into anything and then make them think it was their idea. It’s not a Jedi mind trick. It’s a great tool for firing someone and having them completely agree with you.
To fire someone and avoid any hostility, you want them to be nodding their head in agreement with whatever you say. A really easy way to make this happen is to state a fact or point and then end the sentence with a phrase like, “Wouldn’t you agree?” or “Don’t you think so?” Ninety nine percent of people will agree with whatever you say as long as it’s within reason.
An example would be, “Mr X, you’ve been late to work four days this week, isn’t that so?” Since Mr. X has been late four days, he will say yes or nod and probably spout out excuses. You can take the conversation further in this manner, “While I understand your cat died, I know you read the company policy on being late, didn’t you?” Again he will say yes whether he actually read it or not, because he won’t want to admit that he didn’t. Now that he’s admitted to knowing the company policy, you can fire him for being late, again using a statement and ending with a question that will make him agree. “Then I’m sure you are aware that four absences in a row are inexcusable, aren’t you?” He will agree again believe it or not. Do not end your sentence with an open ended question (a question he can say yes or no to). Always state your opinion and end the sentence with a question that he must agree too. It really does work.
If you aren’t a person who can easily judge the personality and reaction of others in a situation like being fired, take a psychology class, go to the library and do research, or sit back and observe the person first. Introverted people don’t talk about their feelings as much. These people can become angry without showing it or snap because the anger has built up and they don’t have an outlet. Whereas an extroverted person might just tell you their opinion right away.
Always be aware of the type of reaction you are likely to get from the employee and adjust what you say accordingly. Firing someone should be done with as much kindness, empathy, and truth as possible. It’s always best to fire someone at the end of the work week which gives them time to cool off. It’s also best to fire someone for real reasons rather than making up something about pay cuts etc.. Don’t forget, this person probably has friends who work in your office. If you fire someone for a false reason you are also opening yourself up to being sued.