Bearer of Bad News

So, it finally happened: There were too many problems you couldn’t overcome, and you had to let an employee go. Firing someone is one of the hardest things managers have to do, but the trouble doesn’t end after the former employee leaves the building. Even if the termination is not a surprise to you or the employee, it can be a surprise to your team. Handle this next stage carefully, or you might create more problems than you solve.

Avoid the Cone of Silence
“Out of sight, out of mind” never works. If you try to sweep a termination under the rug, you’ll only encourage gossip, which will erode your team’s trust in management. Remaining employees may worry about their job security and look for employment elsewhere. Communicate with the rest of your team quickly. Within 24 hours, you should hold a small meeting or send an email explaining the situation.

Choose Your Words Carefully
While it’s important to be as transparent as possible, your former employee has a right to privacy, and you don’t want to leave yourself open to legal action or be viewed as unprofessional. Resist the urge to criticize, and share only the facts. Consider saying something like “Kevin’s last day was yesterday. We will look for someone to fill the position right away, but for the time being, his work will be spread between Jasper and Victoria. If you have any questions, you can speak to your direct manager.”

Have an Open-Door Policy
If the former employee was close to their coworkers, remaining members of your team may be upset by the departure. Let your team know that they can come talk to you if they have questions. If an employee gossips about the termination, nip this in the bud by inviting them to your office to ask you questions directly. Remind them that you cannot discuss the details of the other employee’s termination, but ask what concerns they have, and address those concerns to the best of your abilities.

It would be nice if you never had to fire anyone, but those odds are slim. The best thing to do is stay calm, have a plan in place, and address each situation with respect for the sake of your team.