Sooner or later, as a business owner, you’ll have to fire someone. Sometimes it’s easy: When you catch someone trying to force a company copy machine into the trunk of his car, it’s really easy to say, “You’re fired!” Most of the other times,  it’s not that easy. In fact, it’s really hard.

And sometimes the people you fire are your friends, or friends of people in your office. I received this email from the human resources manager of a small business. She wrote:

I am the HR person–as well head of all things admin–at a small nonprofit. We have a new executive director, and he plans to fire a colleague who I’ve socialized with quite often. I agree that he is justified in firing her: she is certainly not a stellar employee, and has been warned before; and as a manager, I’ve fired people like her. He has never fired anyone before, and I am going to give him some advice. One piece of advice I would normally give is to have a second person in the room–but in this case, I am the only obvious second person, and I am concerned that my presence will hurt more than it will help. What do you advise? For anyone conducting a firing meeting alone, what is your advice for lawsuit avoidance?


To keep reading, click here: How to fire a friend

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6 thoughts on “How to fire a friend

  1. Great post and great advice, Suzanne. Terminating an employee is never easy; terminating the employment of someone with whom you’re friends is very difficult; and terminating the employment of someone who is well-liked by other employees can be just plain ugly. These decisions are part of the role of management and are necessary for the overall health of the organization, and witnessing or otherwise supporting the process comes with being in HR.

    1. People often see management as these cold hearted snakes that can’t wait to destroy lives. In reality, firing is extremely difficult for almost everyone. I’ve seen managers not be able to say the words when we were just doing role plays before the big day. (I’m a big believer in prepping managers.)

  2. Good input EHRL, as the HR Guy I’m the witness and usually bat clean-up too.
    My rules when firing-
    Concrete- Be certain this is the final action, don’t want any change-ups afterwards.

    Clear- The conversations starts with something like (or similar) “The company is terminating your employment effective today…”

    Concise- This is where it’s good to have notes to refer too. Keep the conversation simple and on track. State final payroll info, UI, COBRA etc info.

    Complete- Time to clean up. IT informed to lock down network access? Key/security badges to return? Credit Card or Vendor accounts? Standby the desk when they clean out and walk them out the building? Have a game plan.

    Final rule, all must be done with respect & empathy.

    1. Oooh, I love that. Clear, Concise, Complete. That is an excellent way to help people remember.

      I’m so in favor of having things written down because terminating someone is HARD. I also recommend having all paperwork for COBRA, Severance, etc all ready to go and hand it to the person. That is super helpful.

  3. Great post, one thing that I’ve often heard MDs say is that you should be careful when employing family and/or friends for this exact reason. Like ‘another evil HR director’ said, it can be very difficult to terminate the employment of a friend.

    1. Family and friends can be the best employees EVER or the absolute worst. And when they are the worst it’s worse than your worst non-family member.

      Family owned businesses can really struggle with this type of thing. And I say that as a girl who used to work summers for my Dad’s small business. Of course, I was the BEST employee ever. 🙂

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