There’s only one right way to fire an employee – here’s how to do it

Fire employee

A few days ago I got a call from a very close friend. She’s a very successful entrepreneur and though it was not odd to receive a call from her, the timing made me realize something was up.

I answered the call and at once, I knew I was right – “Everything alright at your end?” I asked. “I just had to fire an employee of mine” she replied, “Someone I actually liked as a person. This pandemic is just forcing me to make decisions I don’t like.”

She went on to tell me about how she had to let go of one of her team members and how it had to be done over a video call. If there’s any decision I don’t like to make as a leader, it’s definitely firing someone – especially during this time.

Sometimes, in business, you need to make tough decisions. It’s not just about taking risks but also about the more difficult and emotional aspects of the job like having to let go of an employee. Just like any other decision, however, firing an employee needs to be based on hard facts or in my case, behavioral data.

Donald Trump made firing someone look so easy on ‘The Apprentice’ when he said the words “You’re fired!”. Of course, in real life, it’s never like it is on TV or in the movies. So, is there a right way to fire an employee in your company? I believe there is. All you need is a little behavioral science.

The decision to fire an employee needs to go beyond job title or function

There are many reasons why people are fired. COVID-19, other Acts of God and financial downturn aside, some of the most common personnel reasons include:

– They aren’t performing well in the absence of any good reason not to
– They’re not quick learners and have failed to grasp the necessary skills or knowledge
– They can’t adapt their skills to new environments or requirements
– They are not a good fit with the company culture

If you decide to fire an employee, this must always depend on their performance, contribution to the company, and personal skillset.
In many instances, I’ve realized that companies fire people based on their job title or department, which really doesn’t make sense to me.

I’ve found that evaluating each person based on how coachable and adaptable they are, leads to better, more data-driven decisions.

Using an individual’s coachability and adaptability as a basis for termination

Now, this may seem like scientific jargon, but the truth is that we now have tools to make firing (and hiring) decisions based on behavioral science.

In my opinion, one of the two, most crucial factors that determine how essential an employee is, is how coachable and adaptable they are. In the context of the workplace, this refers to (1) how easy they are to coach and how quickly they learn and (2) the success with which they can adapt their skills and knowledge in changing environments.

I say this because these traits allow them to perform well in just about any scenario or environment, provided that you equip them with the skills and knowledge they need. That is why firing people based on title, department or team isn’t the right move – especially at this point in time.

Let me use an example, here: Imagine you run a subscription-based health and fitness company, where you hire reputed trainers to coach individuals who want to get fit in public spaces. Suddenly, you find yourself in the midst of COVID-19. Fortunately, almost all your trainers know how to conduct workouts on Zoom and have done so, successfully.

A few, however, find technology repulsive or aren’t tech-savvy and are botching your otherwise seamless transition to digital fitness. They’ve also repeatedly failed to follow through on simple instructions and can’t figure out how to make it through a single lesson without complaining about “technical glitches”.

What do you do?

Use behavioral science as an indicator when you fire an employee

As a leader, there will come a time when you would have to make the difficult decision to fire an employee.

By using DNA-based tools that leverage behavioral science, you can assess employees only on the most relevant factors like adaptability, coachability, team-fit, and other considerations. If they are less likely to change during times of crises, then they are likely not a good fit for your organization – it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. Times are changing and we need to change as well.

Especially at this point in time, retaining employees with the right skills is crucial. That is why at Wired2Perform, our #WorkFromHome offer – which allows companies to use our platform FREE of charge, for 90 days, for organizational user accounts – can be used at this time to make insight-driven HR decisions.


Author: Raghu Misra
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