As a part of CEO's life there is one thing that will come to the desk sooner or later and it is very unpleasant: sometimes you will have to fire somebody.
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So, first to make one thing clear, especially if you are a young leader: sometimes it has to be done. No matter how hard it is, how bad you might feel, sometimes there's no other way out or your organization will suffer. So, how to fire somebody in a civilized way?
First, don't act based on emotions. You shouldn't show the door to anybody because you are angry; you should base your decision on facts.
First, if the matter comes to the table you should always ask yourself is there any other way. Maybe somebody made a terrible mistake but is otherwise a fine worker? Maybe it's about a long-time employee with some problem and it's not about a lazy worker? Maybe some other job would be more appropriate? You got the picture: fire somebody only if you don't have any other choice.
The next step, for repeating underachievers, should be a talk. Sit the employee down - in your office, not in front of everybody! - and explain what (s)he is doing wrong and why you have the conversation in the first place. After that, give your employee some time to get things right. One month is usually enough for all sort of problems to be solved. Be very clear here: "If there are no results after 30 day, you're out".
During those 30 days, make a check now and then and try to help your employee to achieve what you demand. The fact that you had a warning conversation, doesn't mean (s)he has to be on her own, trying to figure out what to do. This is many managers make mistake and some even don't want to talk to their employee during that period. That's plain wrong: you are not in the kindergarten, so don't be angry if somebody is "not your best friend anymore," but work with them as you are working with any other employee.
And if it comes to that, never fire on Fridays. If you fire early in the week, your employee will have a chance to look for new job right away but there is another very good reason for that: people fired on Friday will have nothing to do during the weekend and will use that time to be angry with you. That anger may explode the very next Monday in your office with very bad consequences.
When you are calling your employee for that final talk, make it short and to the point. Do not play on emotions, do not pretend that you are in worse position than (s)he, just explain nice and politely that you tried everything you could and now it's time for them to leave. If the employee works on some sensitive stuff let another employee follow him to the desk and make sure that all company's things are in place, just personal things can be taken away.
After all is said and done, tell your employees that that person was fired - no details at all, that's between you and fired person - and assign the duties to somebody else.
And remember, firing is a huge amount of stress and your job is to make it as human as possible. If you manage to do that, don't be surprise if, after some time, you meet that same person on the street and he talks to you with not anger. That mean you are a true leader. ■