I was talking with a colleague today about the process of having to fire people. I said I’d had this experience twice – once when I had to fire someone, once when I begged for clemency for an employee whose job was on the line. (I thought this employee was being targeted for the wrong reasons and had huge potential to fulfill their duties. That person however, saw the writing on the wall and subsequently left the organization.)
My colleague said she knew someone who worked as a manager for a very large company and was frequently put in a position where they had to let someone go. This manager had a brilliant strategy for how to handle this tough responsibility. They would call the affected employee into a meeting and explain that they were going to have to let them go, laying out the case if necessary for why the decision was being made. The manager went on to explain that the employee had two options – they could be fired or they could choose to resign.
If they chose to resign, the employee would get all the benefits that were available to any departing employee – a farewell party, a two week window until their departure, a chance for closure – not only for the employee but for their co-workers. Needless to say, most employees this manager dealt with picked the “choose to resign” option.
During the farewell party, most departing employees would simply give some variation of “I’ve chosen to move on” while providing minimal details. Some might talk of vague plans to return to school or travel or other job opportunities.
The benefits of this approach were many – besides letting the departing employee save face, it helped quell the rumour mill and helped minimize the impact of employee departures on remaining employees.
Plus the manager who’s idea it was is now able to proudly speak of how few employees he had to fire during his long career – a proud achievement for any manager!