Leaders may be nervous to fire employees for a variety of different reasons. We’re naming the 5 common fears of firing and offering some suggestions on overcoming those fears. If you have already identified an employee who needs let go, we hope this helps you move past the fear to act on what you know is the right thing to do.
1. Fear of being sued
For many business owners, this is huge. While the fear of a lawsuit is very real, there are ways to mitigate the risk. Documentation of warnings, performance reviews or other complaints can decrease the likelihood of a legitimate lawsuit. If you’re still in doubt, contact a good employment lawyer (VisionSpark is happy to make a recommendation) before you initiate the conversation. He or she should be able to walk you through potential risks and address your concerns, as well as provide valuable legal advice.
2. Fear of pain
This is especially relevant for small companies that function as a tight-knit team. In cases where you value the employee as a person and want to retain the relationship, it can be painful to think about letting her go. But there are respectful and even kind ways of telling an employee her services are no longer needed. Michael Hyatt has a great podcast on the right way to fire an employee.
3. Fear of an empty job
Many employers hold on to a disengaged or even destructive employee because they just need someone to get the work done. In the case of an employee who is truly causing more problems than he’s worth, you will be better served by creating a plan for dividing up his work among other employees. Even better, create a hiring strategy to implement immediately after your poor employee is gone. Oftentimes, other employees are so relieved the poor performer is gone that they don’t mind the extra work.
4. Fear of hurting team morale
Sometimes a manager puts off firing an employee for fear of hurting team morale. While this is a legitimate fear of a manager who cares about his employees and understands the ramifications of low morale, it is not a good reason to procrastinate in firing. If an employee is no longer contributing to the company’s success, or holding the company back from more growth, the team will understand – especially if you facilitate a transparent discussion with the team after the fact.
5. Fear of conflict
Though it’s a poor excuse, some managers will hold off on firing an employee because they’re afraid of conflict. To assuage this fear, and keep yourself from procrastinating any longer, confirm a time to meet with the employee (within the week, as she likely knows it’s coming), and practice what you’re going to say ahead of time. Resolve to stick to your guns, regardless of her reaction. Think of it like ripping off a band-aid – the sooner you can get it over with, the better.