You’re Fired … Or Not?

Boss threatens finger to businessman. Pop art retro vector illustration


I was coaching an Executive Director who was contemplating letting a staff member go, but when asked, the person had not been given the candid feedback that could enable them to make effective change. This is not fair to the individual, the team, or the organization. Let’s slow down here and look at some steps to take.

Here are some things to ask yourself before you let someone go:

1. Have you spoken to them about the details of your concerns?

If not, it’s past time to do so. Do a check-in with yourself to determine your judgments, biases, and assumptions prior to the meeting. How are you feeling? What is causing this reaction in you? Talking with a trusted advisor can be very beneficial to help you get through your preconceived notions to enable the individual space to accept the feedback. Set a time and give that feedback. You are gifting them an opportunity for growth.

2. Now that you have spoken to them in a caring and candid manner, how did they respond?

Were they open to growth and asked for more information? Or were they closed and defensive while not open to owning or even considering their role in the situation? Co-create an action plan to implement the needed changes with a timeline. Are they taking initiative to make the necessary changes, or not?

3. What have you put in place to support their behaviour change?

Do you need coaching to assist you in the process of mentoring them? Do they require coaching (internal or external) to understand the situation and make changes?

4. What has the impact on the team been?

How are others responding to their behaviour? Have the problematic behaviours undermined the trust in the team? Or is trust still sufficient that other team members will be open to accepting behaviour change?

5. In cases where the team has been impacted significantly, ask the individual own their behaviour and share their plan to make a change with the team. 

Not every detail needs to be shared, yet the person must own their behaviour. Team members may need to give space for slight setbacks. Owning the challenging behaviour and making a commitment to change is helpful for re-establishing respect and trust within the team.

If they have bullied others and their behaviour may have undermined trust to the point of no return. Everyone deserves respect and dignity within their workplace – and as an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure that your team is treated with respect. Don’t let one person’s aggressive behaviour result in losing great team members to another organization.

6. Monitor the situation and have regular check-ins to ensure that progress is being made. 

Hold yourself responsible to continue to meet with the individual, be accountable to the action plan, and offer ongoing feedback to the individual. And hold them accountable to the plan you both made.

Contemplating dismissing a person is stressful. Ensure that you have taken the appropriate steps to give the person a real opportunity to make shifts in their behaviour. You may find that the individual grows once they’ve had the support and can become a highly productive and respected team member.

And, if they are unable to engage fully in the behaviour plan to make the needed changes, then you need to put the needs of your organization first and terminate their employment.