Firing someone is the toughest task for a manager. Even when it’s in the best interest of the organization, most managers dread showing someone the door. The best strategy is to remove emotion from the equation and focus on the company. After all, it’s business, not personal.
But what happens when it actually is personal? What if the person who needs to be dismissed is flesh and blood, a family member who isn’t up to the task? You can dismiss someone from the conference room, but you may still have to face him or her in the living room.
Because of the personal relationship involved when the employee is family, the last thing you want is to leave on bad terms. You might have to change your standard approach to firing in order to keep the transition from affecting your family dynamic. In addition to the standard best practices for eliminating an employee, use the following tips when dealing with family:
Don’t make excuses. If you are an enlightened manager, you already tell the truth. But the temptation to sugarcoat a bad situation is higher when you are related to an employee. Resist that urge. If soon-to-be former employees are to succeed elsewhere, letting them know what went wrong is important and valuable. Be truthful and candid, and deliver this news and information in a direct and upfront way. You’ll want to behave as professionally as possible — though not coldly — in order to keep emotions from spiraling. Remember, if you want to be compassionate, the truth helps. If you avoid being honest, your lie could make the situation worse since there is a good chance the full truth will eventually come out.
Avoid a fight. Familiarity breeds contempt, and there is a greater chance that your personal familiarity will give the employee the courage to yell, cry, beg or bully. No matter how many names you get called, do not allow it to turn into a schoolyard fight. Employees being let go often feel victimized, but family or not, everyone must still own their contributions to the situation and move on. You hold the cards, so have some empathy and cut your kin some slack if he or she flies off the handle or throws verbal punches. An actual fight can only happen if two people engage, so take the high road. Remember, minimizing conflict at the office will help to lessen the tension over Thanksgiving dinner.
Don’t make it about you. Of course this isn’t easy for you, but let’s keep things in perspective. You are the fire-er, not the fire-ee. Ask yourself: If the roles were reversed, how would you feel about being fired by family? Show compassion, but save your guilt for your therapist.
Have patience. There’s a good chance for bad blood. But if you know that you acted in the best interest of the company and stand firm on your decision, the employee should come away with a clear understanding of his or her own culpability. Give him or her time to get over this. There is always a chance that fired employees may harbor ill feelings, but when it’s family, you can try to repair your relationship over time. It is possible there will exist a lingering sense of disappointment for letting you down, but don’t expect that right away. Just be patient and available when the time is right to have a personal conversation about this professional situation.
Offer your support. While it may prove unwanted, you can still offer encouragement. Even if it’s not welcomed with open arms initially (after all, you just landed someone in the unemployment line), that doesn’t mean that you can’t reposition love and support at the forefront of the relationship. Be open and encouraging. Perhaps you can offer a jilted sibling other jobs you know are available or make some introductions to other employers. Just because your organization wasn’t the right fit doesn’t mean success elsewhere isn’t possible. Make it clear that you are still available to aid him or her in professional growth. Blood is thicker than water, as the cliché goes, so you should work to overcome any resentment by consistently proving real support.
Lindsay Broder, The Occupreneur™ Coach, is a certified professional coach based in New York. Follow her – @occupreneur.
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