After my last post on “Hire Smart, Hire Right” a couple fellow Heretics asked about the exact opposite: When and how do you let someone go.
First of all, and this surely doesn’t come as a surprise, firing is typically one of the hardest things you can do as a founder. It goes against pretty much everything which we believe in as an entrepreneur — compounded by the fact that we are usually pretty close to our early employees.
And yet — sometimes it has to be done.
The best (and hardest) advice I have received from my mentors (and is consistently repeated by people much smarter than I) is that you typically have to let someone go much earlier than your gut tells you to. We usually hang on to people for too long, believing that “they will come around“ or that “it’s just a phase”. Rarely is that true. Instead you end up with someone underperforming, potentially dragging down the team and not pushing the company forward.
The second important advice is something my friend Daniel Epstein recently shared with me: Your employees are not your family. As much as we might want to “treat people like family” and “be one big family”, it is just not true. You would go through hell for your family (usually); that is normally not what you would and should do for an employee.
Having said all that — it is super important to communicate clearly and early with your employees if their performance is lacking. Being fired should never come as a surprise. And when you make the decision to let someone go — make the whole process as easy and good on your employee as possible.
I sincerely do hope that you never have to let someone go. Realistically you will get there though eventually. And when you do — make sure you communicate early and well, treat people with utmost respect and don’t wait to make the decision.