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Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business, + Website by Matt Blumberg

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CHAPTER SIXTEEN

FIRING: WHEN IT'S NOT WORKING

I hate to end this section on this topic but it's unavoidable: sometimes, you have to fire people. On the worst days, you have to lay them off.

NO ONE SHOULD EVER BE SURPRISED TO BE FIRED

One of our most important management training mantras is “No one should ever be surprised to be fired.” As hard as it might be to actually fire someone, the really hard conversation should have taken place weeks or months prior. Here are some stages that should always precede firing someone:

  1. Alert the employee that his or her job is at risk. Every employee you or one of your managers fires needs to have heard the following sentence weeks earlier: “Things aren't working and here's what you have to do to fix them—or you will be fired.” That last phrase needs to be explicitly stated and repeated in writing. I can't stress this enough. No euphemisms. Don't say “part ways,” or “move on.” Say “or you will be fired.”

    Note: There is one exception to this rule: if someone commits an egregious violation—for example, theft or assault—there are no intermediate steps. Fire them immediately.

  2. Institute a performance improvement plan (PIP). PIPs should be as specific and quantitative as possible. Sometimes, the criteria you have to set will be impossible to meet: an underperforming sales-person just won't be able to close X dollars in 30 days. Nonetheless, PIPs make it clear that firings aren't random and if they really do seem out of reach, employees will often ...

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