Thoughts on Firing

“You’re fired!”

Donald Trump makes it look easy and almost fun. It was never either of those things for me.

Firing for me was always hard and it was never fun. I think that’s the way it should be. In more than four decades in business, I’ve fired a number of people. I don’t know how many because I never thought that was something where you keep score. But, I’ve developed some ideas about firing over the years.

Firing is something that will affect other people’s lives. It’s not just the life of the person you fire. There are his or her team members. There are family and friends and other people outside the business. So give the process the attention and care it deserves.

There are only two valid reasons for firing someone. Either that person doesn’t perform or doesn’t behave or both. Whatever it is, it’s your job to document it.

Everyone deserves the opportunity to reform. That’s why you document your meetings with the person, what was agreed to, and what happened next.

Follow the rules and the process. Unless you own the company there are rules about what you should and shouldn’t do and a process you should follow. If you own the company, there are laws that outline the same things.

Impressions may come and go, but documentation lives forever. It may need to. Those details about who did and said what and when may find their way into an adversarial proceeding way down the road.

There’s process and there should also be some urgency. No one gains when someone who is not performing or behaving stays on the job. Do the due diligence and documentation, but follow the advice of John Wooden: "Be quick, but don’t hurry."

Boss’s Bottom Line

You have to be able to fire people, but it should never be easy or automatic.

—Wally Bock is a former Marine with a career in management in large and small organizations before launching a successful leadership consulting business, including advising major police and fire departments. He lives and works in Greensboro, N.C., where he runs the “Three Star Leadership” website and where this article first appeared. Reprinted by permission.

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