Firing sucks but it happens. There comes a time where you are going to have to let a team member go. It could be for a variety of reasons: role fit, stage fit, culture fit, etc or all of the above.

I used to always say that a bad hire is 10x their salary and 100x if they’re in a leadership role. This is not a hard-and-fast rule but concept that will show you the negative impact of a bad hire. When you factor in opportunity cost, poor decisions, and bad features, the cost definitely adds up.

If your gut is telling you that it’s not working out, it’s probably not working out. Typically, it’s in everyone’s best interests to cut ties and move on. For the team member, they can be successful somewhere else that’s a better fit. For the company, you can have someone else in the role that will drive bigger impact.

My rule of thumb for firing:

  • do it with respect and dignity

  • shouldn’t be a surprise (immediate feedback has been given and acknowledged)

  • exception to this rule is if they did something immoral, unethical, or illegal

How to fire:

  • Be brief and very specific

  • Map out the entire day (fire employee at 9am, talk to team at 10am, etc).

  • When firing someone, script out everything you have to say, and stick to the script

  • Reiterate that “it’s not a negotiation because the decision has been made”

  • Should be a short meeting. The longer the conversation, the more confused the team member will be on whether s/he is fired

  • Fire people in the morning to give your team the entire context and communication during the day

  • Be direct and straightforward with the team but don’t reveal the reasons behind the decision

    “As some of you may already know, Diane is no longer part of the organization. I can’t go into details because that’s confidential information and I want to ensure Diane’s privacy. If you have suggestions about how to minimize the impact of Diane’s absence, let me know.” - HBR

Needless to say, there is a cost to firing someone. You have to re-hire and re-train someone for the role, which can push your timeline back from a few months to an year (or more).

It’s always best to have a thorough and rigorous interview process. It’s much easier to cut people in that process, instead of firing someone.

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