Have you ever had to fire a friend?
If you employ people then it’s quite natural to establish friendships over time and even though you may be their boss and try to retain a level of professional detachment, it’s easy for lines to get blurred.
Sometimes you have employees who try hard and turn up early but simply can’t cut it in the job. These might be people who have worked for you over a long period but as the job has evolved, they haven’t, and they simply can’t perform at the level you need them to. Situations like this are going to be amongst the hardest you’re ever going to handle and there are certainly right and wrong ways of dealing with it. Here’s how to get it right…
Be clear about expectations – when employees become friends it can be easy to fall into the bad habit of setting lower expectations than you normally would. This is something you must avoid at all costs. Set the same clear expectations that you would for any other employee and ensure that they understand the level of performance required. As long as this is understood, your employee will know where they stand.
Be Direct – If performance is not up to standard and you’ve given all the appropriate warnings in line with HR best practise etc, then the inevitable must happen. This is no time for being overtly solemn or being light-hearted and imbued with false cheeriness. You are their boss and they are your employee and the reality is, you’re letting them go. You simply have to be direct. Yes, they may become angry. Yes, they may become upset. But you must be firm, calm and unambiguous irrespective of how you may be feeling inside.
Don’t delay – If things have to come to a head, then don’t procrastinate. For the good of the company, their colleagues and ultimately, the individual it’s best to act in a timely manner if you need to fire them. It’s easy to adopt an ostrich-mentality if an employee you’re friendly with is not performing. You can’t afford to do this so don’t delay if action needs to be taken.
The above may seem harsh to some and inevitably, friendships can and will breakdown if you need to take this action, but this is something that you have to steel yourself for. Time gives everybody perspective and just because you have to fire a friend doesn’t mean that the friendship can’t be renewed at some point in the future. In fact, many often do once time has passed and the situation has been accepted.
Holding on to the truth of what you must do will ultimately earn you the respect of those around you and whilst it’s one of the toughest things about being an entrepreneur, it’s something that you can’t shy away from.