The only thing worse than firing an employee is firing one you truly love. The reasons for having to fire a beloved employee vary: maybe you’ve outgrown their skillset, you’re selling the business, or you can’t afford to keep a full-time employee on. Whatever the reason, you want to cushion the blow for this person that you’ve come to rely on so heavily.
Get a Firing Strategy
You’ll want to consider when and how you’ll fire this person. Doing it on her birthday may not be the most heartfelt strategy, so find a day that has no significance. A Friday is a good option, since you’re headed into the weekend, which gives that individual time to reflect on her new situation.
Expect that she’ll have questions about why you’re firing her, and prepare your answers. Always tell the truth. If the reason is that your company is in financial difficulties, make it clear that it was in no way her fault. If she did have behavioral concerns, you should already have addressed these with her in the past and given her fair warning that if she didn’t improve her actions, she would be terminated. If you’ve reached the point of firing her, she shouldn’t be surprised, as she had the option to make changes for the better.
Respect Their Privacy
Firing an employee should always happen behind closed doors. It’s nobody else’s business, and you don’t want to incite panic among your other staff, who might be concerned that they’ll get the axe too.
You can either plan to let her go immediately or give her two weeks to wrap up her work. While she might prefer to get paid for an additional few weeks, don’t be surprised if she gets upset and walks out then and there. Have a plan for how you’ll handle the work she was doing. Is there someone on your team who can take it over? Can you spread out the work until you get a replacement if that’s your plan?
Do Your Best to Help
If you loved your employee, you’ll naturally want to help her transition into something else. If you have contacts that could help her find a job, offer to connect her to them. Write a glowing recommendation, making it clear that performance wasn’t the reason you had to let her go.
Offer to advise her in finding her next career move if she wants your help. But understand if she doesn’t; people take being let go personally, and she may react negatively, despite your efforts to aid.
Leave the Door Open
If your reason for firing a beloved employee is financial, let her know that if things improve, you’d like to have her back. If it’s possible, consider simply cutting back her hours or working with her on a freelance basis if your finances permit.
No one takes joy in firing an employee, whether it was warranted due to bad behavior or not. If you find yourself in that situation, do it with grace. You never know when your paths will cross with this person again, so leave things as good as they can be. If it’s possible to part as friends, that should be your objective.
Melinda is a founder and president of Quintessence Group, an award-winning marketing consulting firm based in Philadelphia, PA, serving Fortune 500 brands who target small businesses.