17 Sep 2021

You're fired: how to dismiss someone with decency

Last week's Cabinet reshuffle featured some surprising promotions, some less surprising demotions, and a notably lengthy ‘discussion’ between the prime minister and his (now former) foreign secretary. 

Anyone who has been on the receiving end of unwanted notice will identify with the inevitable frictions involved. Redundancies and dismissals can lead to feelings of rejection, anger and anxiety, and need to be handled with care.

We’ve shared some tips from our forthcoming Guide to Business Etiquette on how to make the process as pain-free as possible:

  1. Always deliver the news in person in the first instance. It's not OK to inform someone in writing before you have spoken face-to-face.
  2. Give a clear reason for the dismissal or redundancy, but be humane about it: avoid recriminations.
  3. Try to keep the interview as short as possible. Don’t be drawn into an argument or a lengthy discussion of terms - allow the other person to absorb the bad news and beat a hasty retreat.
  4. Express your support and sympathy, and thank the individual for their contribution to the company.
  5. Be discreet - ensure the employee in question is the first to hear the bad news, and keep it to yourself until it becomes absolutely necessary to share it with others.


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