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Firing at Will

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Wally Bock

Great post, Jay. It's not just at termination time. In fact in many companies, outside consultants handle the delivery of "you're fired." But the core of this issue is that the people we turn from individual contributors into bosses are taking on a job that requires confrontation as a daily activity. If you do a lot of it and make small corrections, you have to make fewer of the bigger, more stomach-wrenching ones.

But we don't tell them that. We don't select them because they've shown they can do it. We don't train them in the importance of doing it and ways to do it well. We just pat them on the back, congratulate them on their promotion and act surprised when they won't do important parts of the job.

Jay Shepherd

You are so right, Wally. Thanks for this terrific contribution.

People: make sure you add Wally's Three Star Leadership Blog to your daily reading list.

— Jay

Stephen Seckler

This reminds me of the interviewing advice I used to give candidates when I was still recruiting (i.e. you need to speak the truth and nothing but the truth, but you are not compelled to tell the "whole" truth--as long as you do not mislead).

Satisfied Client

Bravo. I have long maintained a rule which is kind of a variation on this same theme: when firing someone, the only thing they need to understand is that they are fired. That's it. That is the only essential information. If pressed, you can succinctly, graciously, kindly, and honestly explain the reason in the fewest words possible. It is NOT necessary (or wise) to try and make them understand and agree with the logic - they don't need to be convinced that you are correct in firing them. In fact, despite all temptation to the contrary, LET them think you are wrong if they so choose. Too many managers feel the need to convince the terminated employee that they suck in order to demonstrate the wisdom of the firing. This is a bad idea. Swallow your pride and let them leave believing you underestimated them.

Lisa Rosendahl

I am printing this off as I comment and keeping the post handy for supervisors and HR staff alike. Termination meetings are not the time for true confessions. Thanks for the reminder.

Wally Bock

Congratulations! This post was selected as one of the five best independent business blog posts of the week in my Three Star Leadership Midweek Review of the Business Blogs.

Wally Bock

Rodney Johnson

Jay, great post. The KISS method is always best. However I will add one point. It shouldn't be a surprise to the employee either. With critical feedback along their career path inside the organization, they should understand the "Why" without asking. Employee firings should not be a Without Warning Event.

Mike Coles

This is good advice but it got me thinking that sometimes we must be careful to be as inclusive as possible (within reason). As an employment litigator, I often see cases where the employer has several reasons for terminating an employee but only one was given in the separation meeting and/or documentation. Only providing one reason at the time of termination may cast doubt on your credibility if you try to offer additional reasons later. And especially in the new world of permissible mixed-motives (except in Title VII cases; see having multiple reasons may prove highly beneficial to employers. So while the whole truth may not be critical keep in mind that what you withhold today may be unavailable tomorrow.

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