How to handle post-firing guilt
Updated: Sep 22
The life of a manager is full of hard decisions that come with the job, unfortunately. Firing employees is just as hard on the manager as it is on the staff, no matter how poorly behaved an individual was or how poor their work performance was a manager always asks themselves “Did I do everything I could” resulting in guilt and feelings of failure. This is a normal response to an abnormal situation. In this blog, we are going to be talking about how to handle post-firing guilt.
The importance of firing people
As hard as it is firing staff is critically important to your development as a manager. Ensuring that your company is filled with the right employees can have a positive effect on the work produced. As a manager, you are in charge of making sure that all staff members are meeting the bar in terms of work satisfaction. Your job is to address your staff when they're falling short, and taking action when that doesn't change anything are some of your most basic and crucial responsibilities as a manager.
The most important thing to remember when firing employees is that you should remain professional throughout. This has the potential to develop into a highly emotional situation; it is your role as the manager to stay cool, calm and collective throughout. Here is a step by step guide for what you should be doing:
Introduction - First start by addressing the issue at hand. Initiate a formal conversation to talk about the issues and how you can aid them in resolving it. Ensure that the individual understands fully what the issue is and why it is unacceptable.
Resolve - Working together you can start to outline a plan to tackle the issues. You can offer guidance and reasonable support to help them.
Observation - Watch the individual closely over a probationary period to ensure they are doing everything they can to resolve the issues. Recognise and acknowledge their strengths and accomplishments whilst still holding the firm line for essential improvements to be made.
Secondary meeting - If the outstanding issues have not been resolved and their performance is still unacceptable you should arrange a secondary meeting with the. It might be a good idea to have a member of HR with you in this meeting to discourage any negative behaviour should they take the information badly. Treat them with respect, dignity and fairness throughout the process.
Be sure to place the responsibility for making improvements solely with the individual. Apply such a phrase as, ‘Of course, the choice about what you do now is entirely your own. But I need to tell you if you choose to continue not to make the improvements I have set out then I will have no other option but to take the next step in the process which will be x’. Then if you are required to fire them you can say ‘You have left me with no choice, my hands are tied’.
At this stage, all that’s left to do is take a step back and reflect on how the situation was handled. Ask yourself those niggling questions like “did I do everything I could have?” and learn from the experience. In order to become a successful manager, you must be self-critical.
It is completely understandable to feel emotional after this but is it even more important that you feel good about how you behaved. After all, you did what’s best for you, your company and your employees. You want to make sure that your team is the best. So hard as this was, you're a better manager for doing it. Hopefully, you can give that job to someone who deserves it.
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