We're not kids anymore. Layoffs and firings are just part of life, especially when one works in a landscape with as much change as the tech industry - even more so when one works at a startup. The same people who fit into a startup's first year of operations may not fit when it's time to scale. Sometimes, a change of direction is required.
For those or other reasons, it's just time to let employees go.
That's why one expects workers to respond to a layoff or firing the same way they would approach leaving a job: professionally. However, that doesn't mean that the other side doesn't have responsibility toward this person, even if the person is about to be a former employee.
We pay a lot of attention to how we onboard employees, so let's talk about how to fire employees.
In an industry with fast turnover rates, why should we pay attention to the way that we choose to part ways with our employees, especially if they deserve it?
First, the tech industry is a small one, especially in Singapore. Rumors and reputation are therefore unavoidable. Can you do anything if the person goes around and bad mouths your company? No, but you can control the way you act - and what you write to the candidate (screenshots can be damning).
Second, burning bridges isn't a good idea. Something may happen, and you may find yourself working with this person again, either because he or she joins a company where you work in the future or - possibly - because he or she ends up back at your company. You never know when you'll need to tap this person in your network. Let people go, but do it cleanly and with class.
Finally, it's always good to treat people professionally and with respect when one can. That's just good business.
Keep things to the point
If you're too tactful, you look insensitive. If you drag things out too long, you're making the experience more painful. Strike a balance: state that the company is dismissing the individual and why.
It's best not to get too personal with the why, but be thorough. If the person violated a company policy, state that and explain it clearly. If the problem is because of a cost-cutting measure, explain as much as you're allowed. The person should leave the room knowing about the dismissal and why.
The person may be in shock or lash out verbally - offer support and tissues. Note the last day of work, compensation package (if applicable), and anything else that the person might need. If your support is turned down, leave and give the individual a chance to take stock of what's happened.
Finally, make sure you've refreshed yourself on the terms of this employee's contract - if it says that you need to give some kind of compensation, make sure you deliver on what was signed.
Losing talent for a company doesn't mean the same thing as losing a job. Companies aren't people, and workers are replaceable - that's the way business works. However, a job takes up a minimum of a third of a person's day and the eighth most stressful event a person can experience.
Do you need to be calling employees after you dismiss them, asking them how they're doing? No, but there are ways you can learn how to fire professionally and show compassion.
Dismiss the individual in person - or, if absolutely necessary (because the person works remotely, perhaps) - over video conferencing. Keep in mind that you've delivering some life-changing news and act accordingly.
If applicable - if the conflict was culture-related or due to a layoff - offer what you can to help the employee move forward. Don't promise anything you can't - or aren't allowed - to give. And follow up on your promise.
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