“You’re Fired!” (How To Let People Go With Class)

by drjim on July 22, 2008

How IT managers can fire people with class

How IT managers can fire people with class

Ouch! one of the worst parts about being an IT manager is when it comes time to fire someone. It really doesn’t matter if the person truly deserves it or this is one of those “cut 10% from every department” exercises. Handling the situation where staff decides to leave by themselves is hard enough, this just makes a manager’s life that much more complicated. Some companies have training for their IT managers on how to handle this part of their job correctly; however, most just leave it up to the individual managers to learn how to do it over time.

If we can agree that there is no easy way to turn somebody that you work with’s life upside down, then at least we can take a moment and talk about a few guidelines for how you can terminate people with some measure of class for both you and them.

  • Best Time To Fire Someone: hands down it’s best done at the end of the day. Most often the person is going to be in shock and will need time alone to deal with what has just happened to them. Going home is better than sitting around at work. Additionally, if they need to clean out their desk, then they don’t have to put up with EVERYONE dropping by to tell them how sorry they are for them / glad that it wasn’t them.
  • Have A Good Reason For The Firing: Being fired is hard enough for IT professionals, but not being given a reason for your termination seems to make it 10x worse. A weak excuse like “I was told to fire you” or something like that is no better having no good reason.
  • Do The Firing Face-To-Face: The IT industry is full of really bad ways to fire people using technology. Bad examples include leaving voicemails telling people that they’ve been let go and sending termination notices out via email. As much as it hurts to deliver this news in person, it is really the right way to do it.

One of the best ways of thinking about why it’s important to do a good job of firing people was said by Bob Wilson who is the Chief Human Resources Officer for Elliott Davis: “We never want to lose sight of the fact that the person is forever an alumni.” Amen to that brother.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

talk2people April 16, 2009 at 2:58 pm

Firing people is unpleasant, to say the least. However, sometimes it is the only thing that we can do. When personal conduct or performance are the issues, because the other person has (hopefully) been engaged in the performance management process, it is justified and easier to do. When it is pure economy issue, it’s really tough. Regardless of the cause, it is a very sensitive issue and should be handled with tact and diplomacy. The person being fired needs to be able to move on and leave with personal dignity. The firing manager also needs to be able to live and work under the circumstances that may not be pleasant for some time. The company needs to be able to focus on the business. I think we (managers in general) maybe doing our employees and ourselves a diservice by implying job security. Ten years ago it was reasonable to assume and expect that a job well done translated into long term employment. That is no longer the case. For a number of reasons. So, instead of setting or buying into the false sense of security, we should focus on doing the best job possible today, and at the same time being prepared to leave on a short or no notice. That means a lot more focus on career management than we’ve done in the past. That is not disloyalty. That is called taking charge of your own destiny.

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Dr. Jim Anderson April 17, 2009 at 10:56 pm

You’ve said it well: managers are trying to live a double life – supportive of our staff and yet at the same time trying to keep our sanity. What I’ve tried to do over the years to let my staff know that things change and that any of us could be let go at any time. However, until that time came, everyone was part of the same team and I would work hard to make sure that they got the experience and tools that they’d need to find their next job whenever the need arose. This didn’t make layoffs any easier, but after they were done I was able to sleep at night.

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