Bosses Seek Advice For Friendly Firing Tips

firingIn Up In the Air, the movie where George Clooney fires people for a living, all of the audience's sympathy lies with the poor, unsuspecting employees who get the ax. But stop to think for a minute about what it's like to be the boss who actually has to do the firing (who doesn't hire an outplacement firm to do it for her).

Knowing you are taking away people's paychecks and grinding their careers to a halt is no walk in the park. You're severing relationships, and that causes stress and anxiety.

According to the Forbes.com layoff tracker, since November 2008, America's largest public companies have reported more than 690,000 layoffs. That's a lot of emotionally charged firing sessions.

"Bosses come to like and respect their employees and they assume that the news of being fired will devastate them," says Jean Palmer Heck, author of Tough Talks in Tough Times: What Bosses Need to Know to Deliver Bad News, Motivate Employees & Stay Sane. And oftentimes it is devastating, or at the very least a huge shock.

Bosses can make this unpleasant task a little easier by arming themselves with proper firing skills. Firing doesn't have to be a completely negative experience if you have good communication and people management skills. Here's what you need to know:


The CHECK System

Heck has developed a five-step process she calls the Tough Talks CHECK system, that is meant to help bosses keep their sanity and maintain a productive workplace while conducting layoffs. CHECK stands for:

1. Clarity: Bosses need to understand for themselves why they are letting a particular employee go. "Clarity is a process," cautions Heck. It comes before and after the tough talk.

2. How To: Deliver the message with the right words and integrity. As Heck says, "less is more and more is a mess."

Sandra Naiman, author and organizational consultant, concurs. "Don't apologize or tell the employee how badly you feel. He doesn't care and there is nothing you can say or do at this moment that will make the employee feel any better."

3. Emotions: Allow time for the receiver to process his emotions.

4. Comprehension: Make sure that the employee got the message. Get an acknowledgment that he understands the situation, but, says Heck, "Give the info and stop talking."

5. Kickoff: A firing affects the entire workplace. If the remaining employees don't get an explanation from you about what is going on, the rumors will fly, so be sure they get the 411 on the extent of the layoffs, why they're happening and what happens with the business (team, department) from here.


Climax Portable Machine Tools Softens the Blow

Climax Portable Machine Tools had to lay off 40 of its 150 employees last June. President and CEO Geoff Gilmore and VP of HR Joni George broke the mold on firing techniques and came up with some innovative ways to say goodbye.

For example, the laid-off employees were sent off with a kit that included letters of recommendation, a list of employment agencies, and high quality resume paper. Climax was even nice enough to offer their own in-house human resource services to fired employees that wanted help brushing up on their interviewing skills.


A Detour From the "Walk Of Shame"

Packing up your desk into a cardboard box and walking through the office while all the folks who still have jobs stare sympathetically adds insult to injury. To mitigate this stressful ritual Climax assigned each laid-off person a buddy, who helped him pack up and walked him out to his car.

Layoffs are a knock-out punch, especially in a brutal economy where job hunts can easily last a year. But by finding the right balance of professionalism and empathy you can soften the impact and allow both the manager and the employee to retain their self-respect.

Next: Unemployment Awkward: Face to Face with the Former Boss >>

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

2 Comments

Filter by:
Vicki Sullivan

I was working for a community college who suggested I take some time off due to racking up too many comp hours. It needed to be taken by the end of the month. I had been out 1 day and had to have emergency surgery. I still had 4 days of comp time left so it was no problem as far as work was concerned. I was diligent in contacting my superiors to let them know I would be out. I received a call on the 3rd day informing me that I was fired due to 'unscheduled absences'. #1 that he would do that over the phone and #2 that he was aware that I had plenty of comp time left (I still had comp that was paid out to me on my final check). I asked if there was another reason and he said no. I was able to collect unemployment due to my boss not reporting any actual wrongdoing on my part (there was none to report). I will never know why I was fired but it was the best thing that ever happened to me after all. Keep your head up and try to go through the horrible letdown with grace - you will come out better in the end. Something was lacking in the first place or else you would never have been fired.

May 01 2010 at 4:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob Collins

I never knew a boss that told me and did the laying off, the companies that I've worked for always had the HR people to tell you when your last day would be and handle all the paper work and walked you from your office to their's and then to the door usually with a person from the security force. So I really don't feel bad for the boss, I might feel sorry for the HR people, but my understanding about HR is that they're there to protect the company and not the person being let go.

March 19 2010 at 4:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Search Articles

Picks From the Web