Letting an Employee Go With Kindness

Alexey Novak

Director of Engineering at Rose Rocket



The first time that I had to let somebody go as a manager was very stressful. You can read a thousand articles on the topic, but it is difficult to convey just how hard it is to do it yourself. You have to be especially careful the first time that you let someone go. Any mistake you make, you will remember for the rest of your life.

The last thing that you want to do is make anybody upset or get your company in trouble. The risk factor in this area is extremely high, so you should go into it prepared.

Actions taken

What’s really important, especially for the first time, is to never be too overly confident in yourself. Have a script prepared in advance and run it by HR and your own managers or anybody available and appropriate to reach out to. Be okay to read it from the paper - you don’t want to make things harder for either the person being let go or yourself by deviating from the prepared material.

I think it’s important to remember how difficult it is to be dismissed from a job in any capacity. Be mindful if the person is getting emotional about it. React appropriately without getting too far from the point.

Your demeanor should be kind, factual, and to the point. You also have to be careful with any extra information that you provide, otherwise you could end up digging yourself into a hole. This is what makes having a prepared script so important. It protects both you and your company.

Another critical thing to do is to link everything that you’re explaining to this person to tangible events in the past. They may be confused as to why they’re being let go to begin with. Show them where their performance did not meet the standard that the company required. Giving them closure will help to heal the wound and to prevent them from making the same mistakes in the future.

Lessons learned

  • HR is your friend and your support system. They will be able to help you and to explain how to do things properly. You, in turn, need to be there for HR, as well. Try to be there for the whole meeting.
  • If somebody gets emotional, you need to be very careful with what you say. If you deviate too far from the script, it can spiral out of control very quickly and may actually end up getting the company in trouble.
  • Never blame the person entirely. Always connect the decision to other factors and circumstances as well. There are no bad employees - there are only bad matches between companies and the people they hire.

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Alexey Novak

Director of Engineering at Rose Rocket

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