What It's Like To Fire Someone

So what’s it like to fire somebody?

Most HR people have been asked this question, generally followed up by a reference to Toby from The Office. Terminating an employee is not a common occurrence and it can definitely be emotionally charged.

First things first, it isn’t HR’s job to let people go. Like all roles, HR is multifaceted and most components aim to help managers and employees be successful. Sometimes though, the cards don’t align and there needs to be a change.

In general, there are two different situations that can occur. The first is a true reduction in force (aka RIF) situation. You may be letting go great workers or a whole department or groups of employees regardless of their performance. THESE are the hard ones. These are the ones where you don’t sleep the night before the action. These are the ones that show what kind of company you work for as well. How these employees will be treated and taken care of is a hallmark of a company's respect for its employees. In HR, these situations are those that help you know if the company you work for is fair and respectful. Regardless though it’s still emotionally hard.

The emotion and surprise is inevitable in these situations. If these ever get easy, it’s time for a new job.

The second situation is more individual. A manager and employee are working through performance issues and HR gets pulled in to consult. Helping the manager articulate their message, giving them pointers on what to say, how to say it and how to document it. Sometimes, many times, it ends here. That manager and employee work through the issue and they are back off and running. Job well done! As we've discussed here before, quality performance feedback yields quality performance results.

Sometimes though the message isn’t getting through, or the employee really doesn’t have the skill set to accomplish the core functions of the job. Is the message not being sent clearly, or is it not being received fairly? That is the first question to get to the bottom of to know the true situation. This is where the tough work starts. HR and the manager’s goal should be to never walk into a termination discussion where the employee is going to be surprised by the decision. If that is the case, the manager and HR person have failed that employee. This is where a tool like Quix can be so instrumental in providing managers with a feedback mechanism simple enough that they'll use frequently.

HR’s job in the termination is to make sure everything is being done to make sure this employee is receiving fair and clear feedback and understands the consequences of not changing. It is not HR’s job to give that feedback though, and that is where this can get difficult. HR’s job is to coach a manager on how to do that, and in many cases, the managers do their part.

As they say, with power comes responsibility, and being a manager is no different. It’s important that leaders are fair and clear with employees and can honestly say there is no reason for that employee to feel surprised because the message has been clear throughout performance feedback. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your own manager or your HR team when entering these discussions. It’s important to get it right.

Quix is a mobile-first application that allows employees and managers to quickly rate themselves and their direct reports up to twice per day. This allows companies to build a more nuanced, complete picture of employee performance over time, identifying high-performers, problem employees, potential management issues and even biases that would otherwise go unnoticed and unaddressed.

Request a demo to learn more!