A former Google and Apple exec shares 2 tips she uses to keep compassion front and center when firing someone

Photographer is my life./Getty ImagesNo one wants to hear that they’re a horrible employee.
  • Firing an employee is one of the hardest things a manager can do.
  • Former Apple and Google exec Kim Scott is familiar with the subject. In her book “Radical Candor,” she says it’s important to avoid thinking that “you’re firing them because they suck.”
  • Above all, enter the conversation with a sense of compassion.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

While terminating someone’s employment is totally permissible in most organisations, the act can seem just as inhumane as leaving a big red mark on their cheek. As the Wall Street Journal recently wrote: “Much is up for debate, including the proper day to let an employee go, whether to have security escorts present and how long to maintain a fired worker’s benefits as a way to help smooth rattled nerves, companies and consultants say.”

Kim Scott is all too familiar with this issue. She’s a former Apple and Google exec and CEO coach who’s worked with former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and Dropbox CEO Drew Houston.

Scott now runs her own company, Radical Candor, and she’s published a book by the same name. In it, she offers readers a wealth of management lessons drawn from her own experience.

“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t wake up with an upset stomach on a day you have to fire somebody,” Scott told Business Insider.

That said, “the most important thing never to do when firing someone is to go in with the mentality that you’re firing them because they suck.”

Obviously, no one wants to hear that they’re a horrible employee. But just as important, you don’t want to tell someone that they’re a horrible employee. So don’t.

“Go in with a mentality that this is a great person, this is a great job, but this is a terrible job for that person,” Scott said.

She went on: “One thing that I have found really helpful is to go into the conversation with a sense of compassion – to think about a job that I’ve sucked at, to think about a job that I’ve hated, and what a relief it was not to be doing that job anymore.”

Scott offered another somewhat surprising tip to make the process easier on everyone.

“I try to imagine a job where this person would really flourish. And, in fact, if I can, I’ll even make an introduction to that person to help them find a job where they can really be great.”

Scott’s tips go back to the heart of radical candor, a leadership style based on challenging your employees directly while at the same time caring for them personally. You’re not hiding the fact that you’re firing them, but you’re doing it like a human being.

One thing to avoid when letting someone go? Scott said: “This is not the moment to be giving tons and tons and tons of feedback. Because that makes the conversation backward-looking. You want to get the person and yourself moving forward to a better place.”

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