When to Fire: Necessary Endings

When To Fire (1)

Knowing when to let an employee move on is hard. Firing is crucial yet we don’t enjoy the process. That process of necessary endings is probably why they are such a struggle. Let's talk about how to make that decision and more easily come to terms with necessary endings.

I once belonged to a Business group made up of owners and managers. Members brought problems before the group for solutions. Again and again, business owners would bring an employee problem to the group. Everyone except the owner-storyteller would know the answer. The employee had to go. It was clearly necessary.


In fact, one time an owner said he had a great employee who had lost him one million dollars in net profit in the last year. Not one million in revenue. One million in profit. He wasn’t sure what to do. It was not a one-off loss but a pattern that was recurring. He was a founding employee and a great guy but he just couldn’t seem to get his work done. 

Sometimes the main benefit of peer business groups is pointing out the obvious. I’m sure you know what we told him. Your employee has to go. I’m not sure what he did. He continued to struggle with the problem. He couldn’t see the obvious. This ending was necessary. Necessary Endings is also the name of a book authored by Henry Cloud. I highly recommend checking it out.


When It’s Time

How do you know when it is time for a necessary ending? Henry Cloud would say it is when there is no hope of improvement or change. Not hope as in wish, but hope as in a reasonable chance of succeeding. When you are hopeless for an employee or a relationship, then it is time for a necessary ending. 

Remember the employee that cost a group member a million dollars in one year?  The company owner admitted it was a recurring and consistent problem? He had pointed out the problem to the employee but no improvement had occurred. The owner should have realized the situation was hopeless and willing to create a necessary ending. 

When you are uncertain about what to do about an employee. Ask yourself:Laid Off

  1. Is there any reasonable hope of a change?
  2. Has the issue been clearly defined and the person given a chance to change their behavior?
  3. Am I holding back just because I don’t want to do the hard thing?

If you answered yes, then you need to arrange a necessary ending. 

"In many contexts, until we let go of what is not good, we will never find something that is good, The lesson: good cannot begin until bad ends." An excerpt from Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud.


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