7 Things You Should Never Say When You Fire Someone

Posted on November 15, 2012.

Unfortunately, I’ve had my fair share of having to let people go. You can call it firing or downsizing, but it’s basically the same thing. You’re ending someone’s livelihood. Today’s WSJ had an article on The Best Ways to Fire Someone with some solid tips. But it didn’t go far enough.  There are some things you want to make sure you never say when you have to cut the cord.

Some of these I’ve learned the hard way, but if you’re firing someone, never say:

1.    This hurts me more than it hurts you. No it doesn’t. You still have a job to go back to. Plus you’ve had time to process it. Your employee is likely in shock, even if they anticipated it. No one ever thinks it’s really going to happen to them.

2.    Look at this as an opportunity. Really?  You’ve just fired me and I’m supposed to see the bright side. Down the road, this may end up being true, but no one sees it at the time.

3.    I’m sorry.  You may be sorry, but saying so just adds salt in the wounds. If you’re so sorry, why are you firing me?  It’s just a bad thing to say.

4.    We really had no choice.  This is only okay to say of there was some breach of ethics or the law. Otherwise, especially in a downsizing situation, there are always choices that were made. Your employee knows this, so don’t pretend.

5.    I’m really worried about how this is going to impact the team, company (fill in the blank). Much like #1, you’ve now made it all about you and how you have to deal with the fallout.  Your fired employee doesn’t care. He or she has enough problems.

6.    If only you had…..Once the decision to let someone go has been made, stick to the facts; “we need to let you go, your last day is xxx, your severance is xxx (if applicable).  Don’t try to coach them now. It’s too late.

7.    Everyone seems happier and less stressed when they’re gone.  Then why don’t you leave?  Looking for a job and paying a mortgage isn’t exactly stress free.

Unless someone has broken the law or violated some code of ethics, firing someone is never easy, even if it’s well documented. It’s especially hard to downsize people out as so many of them were solid employees.  But if you have to do it, please treat them with dignity and keep your opinions to yourself.  They sure don’t want to hear them.