What’s the best way to fire someone? Is there one? Even in the most well-handled
circumstances, firing an employee always leads to tension and hard feelings.
Managers dodge awkward questions, morale takes a turn, and other employees
start to fear for their own jobs. Seeking to improve the whole process, David
Siegel, digital media executive and adjunct professor of management at Columbia
University, offers a more humane and perhaps even more successful approach
when it comes to firing: transparent separations.
“With transparent separations, you don’t blindside an employee or fire him
outright,” Siegel explains in an article for the Harvard Book Review. “Instead,
you encourage him to leave on his own by letting him know he is going to be let
go soon and needs to start looking for a new job ASAP. […] I don’t recommend
setting a strict departure deadline at first, but I do provide a time frame for clear
progress on the job hunt. […] I also ask that the employee keep the arrangement
Telling an employee they will be fired weeks in advance feels like it could backfire,
but Siegel claims he’s actually been thanked by fired employees for this approach.
This is because rather than being caught unaware and seeing their life thrown
into uncertainty, fired employees feel supported by the company and have the
opportunity to make the transition without fear. Here are the two biggest benefits
of transparent separations.
Smoother Transition — Your company has the time to find a suitable
replacement, and the employee has the benefit of looking for a new job while still
employed. Of course, if an employee lets their work suffer during the transition,
managers should treat this like a broken deal and accelerate the termination.
Improved Company Culture — Abrupt firings make employees nervous and
turn managers into villains. With the transparent separation method, the departure
is known in advance and the employee being let go is able to talk about their new
job rather than let rumors fly about an unexpected termination.
Transparent separation isn’t the best option for every situation. For example, if a
manager’s bad behavior is creating a toxic work environment for employees, that
manager needs to go right away. However, when the reason for the departure is
performance-based, taking the time to practice this method can help create a more
positive experience at your company.
Thanks for reading,
Randy Sklar, CEO
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