Advice for When You Apply These Ideas

Remember this advice when initiating the termination process: make the hard decisions.

First, take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Then another. Focus on the breath.

Terminating someone’s employment is never a fun thing to do, and no matter how many times you do it, it’s never easy. Nor should it ever become easy—those CEOs who lay off hundreds or thousands of people at a time can generally only do so because they’re either doing so “at a distance” (the people they are terminating are not people they work with directly, and thus aren’t “real”). For you as a first-level team manager, firing somebody will almost always be up-close and personal.

It bears repeating, however, that the first response of many manager polls on “biggest mistakes” is often “I should’ve fired them sooner.” Letting a bad situation linger on for an extended length of time—simply because the manager doesn’t want to have to go through the emotional distress of termination—is never a good idea. It’s infection in the wound. Time will not heal an infected wound until the infection has been addressed; at best, it will close it over, but will continually be fighting the infection and potentially inhibiting the rest of the body in its actions.

Note, when I use this analogy, I don’t mean the individual in question is “bad” or “poisonous” or actively seeking to do harm to the rest of the team. But when it’s the wrong person in the role, and you don’t take steps to address it, the whole team suffers.

Making the decision to terminate is never easy. Therefore, never do it alone (always consult with your HR partners), never do it without confidence (stemming from the fact that you set clear expectations and provided corrective action when those expectations were not met), and never do it without documentation.

And then when it’s done, take a deep breath, let it out slowly, go through your notes to prove to yourself that this was simply the last step in a long series, and move on. It’s the least-fun part of the job, but every job has parts that are not fun, and if you’re going to be a top-notch manager, you need to do the least-fun parts just as professionally as you do the most-fun ones.

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