When Firing Someone… Be Kind and Clear

I recently talked with a friend call me about a challenging staff member.  It had all the normal ingredients of a typical staff “situation”… poor chemistry, differences in ministry philosophy, and colliding expectations.   The bottom line is that “it just wasn’t working” and everybody knew it.

As we talked, it was clear that my friend had made the decision to fire this staff member… the only question was “how” it was going to be done.

Over the years I have learned a couple of lessons when you are making the hard decision to release someone from their staff role.

1) Once the decision has been made, don’t drag it out.

I am not talking about the process for arriving at the decision, but once the decision is made, it best to be honest and have the hard conversation as soon as you can.

The next obvious question is “How long should they stay around after you have released them?”  Generally speaking, it is best for them to leave sooner than later.  Continuing in their role just makes it hard on everyone.  I suggest giving them adequate time to say their “goodbyes” to key people in their department, communicate key task information and clean out their office.  Depending on the level of leadership, this should easily be done within 1 week.  If any immoral or unethical behavior has taken place, then it is appropriate for them to be done that day.

2) Be financially generous.

Even though you are feeling frustrated and stressed over the situation, it is always best to be gracious and generous.

My dad was always a vocal advocate of blessing his pastor and being gracious to those who lead in the church.  At times others would complain, “I don’t know why we would do that for the pastor… they don’t do that for me at my job.”  I would hear my dad say “Yes, but wouldn’t it be great if they would?  And we have the opportunity to treat people differently than they get treated in the world.”

Whenever you release someone from their job, you are creating a stressful hardship on that person and their entire family.  Transitioning takes time and it’s not easy to find new employment quickly.

So, why not be gracious and give them 3 months of severance and bless them by continuing to cover their family’s health insurance for a few months?  As the church, we should lead the way in generosity.

It is never easy to fire someone, even if it is clear to everyone that it is the right decision.  But if you use wisdom and generosity, you can graciously lead through the situation, care for the person and their family, and honor God in the process.

How well have you and your team handled releasing someone in the past?

Is there anything you wish you would have done differently?

What can you do now to be ready for next time?