Regardless of your politics, it’s hard to ignore the fact that in the past few months while campaigning for the Republican nomination for the presidency, Donald Trump has proven quite quotable. But before all this stumping, he was well-known for the boardroom-table catchphrase from the NBC reality show The Apprentice that he aimed at ambitious men and women who failed to complete the week’s task to his satisfaction: “You’re fired.”

In fact, letting someone go is the hardest thing to do. After all, at one point the organization hired this person and great expectations were in place on both sides. For many reasons, the organization — and maybe the person — came to the conclusion that is better to break up the business relationship, and the decision is made to let the person go. Here are the wrong and right ways to let someone go.


Don’t: Many organizations move quickly to fire the employee. This should always be the last resort. Why? Firing a person has many negative effects on the organization. First of all, the morale of the remaining employees suffers. In addition, many times the same job function will be rehired within a year at two to three times of the cost.

Do: The organization, supported by HR, should try to understand what went wrong and if it can be fixed. If not, then a two-way conversation takes place and a plan is agreed upon. This plan might involve retraining, a job rotation, or an agreement that allows the employee a period of time to interview and pursue other opportunities in the organization. The organization, again supported by HR, gives these people top priority. Sadly, many organizations, instead, use this redeployment pool as a quick step towards abandonment and termination.


Don’t: There will be times when people do need to be let go. It is very important how this occurs. Many organizations call outplacement firms to handle this process: An employee comes to work in the morning and meets a stranger … then, 60 minutes later, someone else is cleaning up the office and bringing the employee’s personal items to the parking lot. Many people are treated as criminals when their company lets them go. When people are terminated in inhumane ways, the existing employees hear about this. Instead of doing their work, they will worry if they are going to be next. As a result, they work in fear and in reactionary mode.

Do: Instead, HR needs an active process to meet personally with the impacted person, discuss the reasons why the person is being dismissed, and answer any questions. Usually, it is HR who explains the next steps, which could include outplacement assistance for a fairly long period of time to help the person find a new work. The HR professional knows this will help the credibility of the organization. When people are let go in humanistic ways, existing employees know at least that if things don’t work out, they will have support in finding something else. The HR professional knows that this is the right approach for a person and the right moral approach in a society.

Key Takeaways

Aspiring or current HR professionals should ask themselves:

  • What is the process in your organization for hiring, evaluating, and letting go?
  • Does it make sense?
  • What parts need change and why?

By asking these questions and working towards humanistic solutions, the organization can have a healthy system where people want to work.

I’ll be cheering you on as you go!

Craig Nathanson

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