Most of us don’t sit around talking about how fun it is to fire our employees. (And if you know someone who does do this, it may be time to reassess who you’re hanging out with!)
Usually, we’ve spent weeks to months (and sometimes, even longer) fretting about our decision to fire someone.
Will this ruin their life?
Am I really justified in this decision?
How will other people react?
When we can’t put the termination off any longer, we wind up carrying our own baggage into the situation, making an already difficult circumstance even more emotionally charged.
While the internet abounds with articles that outline exactly what steps you need to take in order to gracefully fire someone (here, here and here, for example), the crux of the discussion always comes back to one thing: If you want to fire someone and maintain grace and dignity in the process, you’ve got to keep your cool.
Sounds simple, right?
Wrong. And here’s why:
We make difficult situations harder than they need to be because we focus on trying to control our emotions.
In her Psychology Today article, Dr. Andrea Brandt tells us that, when tensions get high, we often sabotage ourselves by trying to control our emotions.
“Trying to control your emotions doesn’t work because it can’t work,” she says. “You can’t control how you feel; the only thing you can control is how you respond to your feelings.”
When work gets tense and we’re faced with situations that we have to confront, we can have all the self-help knowledge in the world, but until we understand how to deal with the waves of emotions we’re feeling, we’ll be stuck in the damaging cycle of reactivity.
So, if you’re faced with the difficult situation of having to fire someone, how do you prevent yourself from getting carried away with all the emotion that is bound to show up?
1. Start by grounding yourself with the facts.
While it does happen, people rarely get fired as a result of a single action. Usually, an employee termination follows months of coaching, months of poor reviews, and months of detailed performance improvement plans that don’t work. Remind yourself that you’re firing the employee for legitimate reasons, that your ultimate responsibility is to ensure the success of your company, and that you don’t have to jeopardize anyone’s dignity in the process.
2. Don’t forget to breathe.
Before going into any firing situation, prepare yourself ahead of time for some very raw emotions. This is always easier if you’re breathing! In study after study on mindfulness, focusing on the breath has been repeatedly demonstrated to calm the emotions and quiet the mind. While you’re breathing, notice where you’re holding physical tension and focus on relaxing it. Why is this important? Again, a simple focus on your posture and breath gives your mind something constructive to pay attention to so it doesn’t get carried away by your emotional reactions.
3. Remain as calm as you can.In a firing, the mind and emotions are the real saboteurs of dignity and grace. Click To Tweet
Staying calm doesn’t mean you don’t have feelings about what’s happening. What it means is you’re not letting your emotions cloud your judgment or prompt you to do or say something you wouldn’t do if you weren’t reacting. It might be helpful to remember that the firing isn’t really the main problem – your mind and emotions are the real saboteurs of dignity and grace for everyone concerned.
No matter what happens in the exit interview, you’ll be more balanced if you’re aimed at staying as physically relaxed as you can be. And this always means maintaining a focus on breathing and releasing the tension in your body.
The employee you’re firing probably won’t thank you for it, but you can count on the fact that the more calmly you handle yourself in a difficult situation, the better this difficult experience will go for everyone concerned.
Watch my Video Stay as Calm and Relaxed as You Can.
Take good care : )