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How To Fire Someone

How you change teammates will matter as much as why you do it

Don't be like Trump

Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2018

An essential part of leadership is team composition. Inevitably, this requires firing people. How you do it will matter as much as why you do it.

When you decide to fire a colleague, follow these three rules:

Be Decisive

If you’re going to fire someone, do it quickly and clearly — in-person. Do not have a meeting about firing them. Do not put them vague warnings, or play games.

And do not extend their work. Their operational role should stop immediately (this requires having team members who can replace their boss).

Be Generous

The way you fire a colleague says a lot about the leader and, by extension, the organization.

When you fire someone, be generous in praise and, if at all possible, compensation.

Try to help them secure another job and offer to be a reference.

The way someone is treated on the way out will determine how she describes your organization to prospective employees, partners, and customers. Generosity works.

Be Transparent

No single action supercharges the company gossip mill like a firing. Leaders should get ahead of this.

Before the news leaks, send your entire organization an email announcing your decision. Generously praise your outgoing colleague — you can say what he did right without saying what he did wrong — and outline why a new person will help the organization achieve its goals.

Offer to answer the team’s questions. If team members are speculating — did you hear they fired Brendan? I heard it was because he doesn’t wear socks with his loafers!!!!! — you are doing something wrong.