Firing Hurts Both the Employer and the Employee

I’ve been on both ends of the phrase, “You’re Fired!” Neither feels good. Obviously, being fired is the most painful. However, great leaders recognize that firing hurts both the employer and the employee.

Businessman Fired, Told to Get Out or Asked for ResignationOh, sure, I’ve heard all the excuses aimed at comforting employers:

“It’s better for the fired employee too.”

“It’s just business – nothing personal.”

“You have accountability to the rest of the team,” and so on.

That’s just crap. I’m sorry, but it is. You’re telling the person the relationship no longer provides adequate value for you to continue. That hurts. If you’re a servant leader, it hurts both ways.

Failure is Bi-Directional

At the end of the day, letting someone go is a failure on both parties. First, yes, the person you fire may not be meeting expectations. However, there is likely a reason for this failure to perform. And, as the hiring manager, you have a responsibility to that person. Your responsibilities include:

  • Hiring only when absolutely necessary
  • Hiring only capable individuals
  • Setting clear objectives
  • Providing regular feedback
  • Providing opportunity for improvement

Chances are, if you’re letting someone go, it is at least in part because you failed one of your own responsibilities as well.

Termination Has a Life Long Impact

In most cases, the terminated party holds a grudge against the employer for the rest of their life. As a result, whenever someone asks, “what did you think of this employer?” the terminated employee feels obliged to give a negative opinion.

Likewise, the manager is typically impacted. The few times I’ve had to fire someone remain dark reminders of what can go wrong. Those experiences make me question my adherence to beliefs – like what it means to be a Christian who must negatively impact the livelihood of another person.

The Paradox

The paradox is that for the hurt to effect the manager as well, the manager must be a great leader. For example, there are the tyrant and toxic leaders, like Donald Trump, who thrive on firing others. Yet, in the case of great leaders, the unfortunate circumstance of firing a person wears on the leader as well.

To be sure, the individual who is fired is hurt more directly than the employer. Still, termination should have a lasting effect on both the manager and the employee.

The next time you consider firing an employee, no matter how angry, frustrated or concerned you are – consider these factors. When you recognize the role you played in the failure, you should also recognize this abrupt end will hurt you as well.

Still, you are the leader for a reason. You must make these tough decisions. You must make this tough decision.

Question: Do you believe it is normal for terminating employee relationships to hurt the leader?


Picture of Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

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