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16 Feb '14

Firing people is an art and not a science

Posted by T.J. Addington in firing
Have you ever had to let someone go in ministry? How did it go? Messy? Painful? Lots of cleanup? I have had my share of situations over the past years when I had to let staff go and I have learned that no matter how hard you try to make it a win/win or at least a reasonable transition that it is still an art and not a science. If it were science it would be a lot easier but as an art, every situation is different and each one unique.

Because it is so difficult, the truth is that we often put off what we know is in the best interests of the ministry and what we know is inevitable far longer than we should. The result is that we lose ground and in many cases adversely impact other team members because we didn't have the courage to face and deal with reality.

Which raises another important consideration. When things are not working well between a staff member and the organization, chances are high that the staff member actually knows it and in some cases is also unhappy in their role. Unfortunately for each who actually knows that the fit is not right there are numerous others who are oblivious to that reality.

Which leads from science to art. Here are some of the questions I ask when the fit is not right.

  • Is there another role in the organization that would fit this individual?
  • Have I kindly but truthfully told this individual that there is a problem and that they are not living up to expectations? If not how do I enter into a dialogue that will help them understand what is not working?
  • Is there a way I can encourage the individual to look for a new job so that they go to something rather than from something?
  • When there is a mutual parting of the ways, can we agree on what is said from both parties?
  • If severance is being paid to encourage someone to leave, do I have a clause that ties that severance to what the party is allowed to say about the ministry they are leaving?
  • Will a termination stand the scrutiny of a lawsuit if one is brought?
  • What constituencies need to be paid attention to because of the termination? Do you have a plan before you pull the trigger?
  • Have I thought through the unintended consequences and tried to minimize the fallout of my decision?
  • Have I sought wise counsel about my decision and process?
  • Who needs to be informed and in what order?
  • How long will the individual be allowed to stay in the office on once an announcement is made? (The shorter the time the better).