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4 Ways to Gracefully Let Someone Go by Jeremy Kingsley

Christian Leadership Alliance

By Jeremy Kingsley

I hate firing people. My heart always wonders if I could have done more to make it work, or if I should have given them another chance. But  I know that I cannot be a good steward and continue to employ people who don’t meet the organization’s standards or reflect its values.”

As harsh as that may sound, that leader is entirely correct. At some point it becomes obvious that a team member or colleague isn’t doing his or her part, no matter how many opportunities they are given. And while we tend to look at firing someone in a negative light, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.

It’s true that delivering unwanted news to an employee will never be a fun job, but there are ways to frame it in a different, more positive light.

Here is advice.

1. Give them a reason

You don’t need to go into minute details, but it can be helpful to offer constructive feedback as to why this decision was made. Remember, it’s not just about firing someone who isn’t a good fit for your organization, it’s also about being a part of their growth going forward.

2. Leave room for questions

It’s OK if they prefer not to, but you need to give them the opportunity to ask any questions they might have – and be prepared to answer them. Depending on your relationship with the individual, or the size of your organization, you could offer to speak to them later, once they’ve had a chance to process the news.

3. It’s all about context

People aren’t always fired for negative reasons. It’s possible that the person may be a fantastic individual and employee, but not a good fit for the job.

If there are specific skills which they are unable to master, to leave them in the role would result in added stress and frustration for everyone involved. If appropriate, to help the individual find future success – even if that means letting them go – follow your bad news with a good letter of reference to take with them.  Be sincere about the value they could bring to a different organization in a different role.

4. Accentuate the positive

It can be difficult to find encouraging things to say to someone you are firing, but it’s important that you do more than simply hand them a pink slip.

Give recognition of a successful project or a skill set they developed during their tenure. Don’t overdo it in your praise – you’re still letting them go – but do be genuine and forthcoming in acknowledging their positives attributes.


Jeremy Kingsley is a professional speaker, best-selling author, and the President of OneLife Leadership. Jeremy holds bachelors and masters degrees from Columbia International University. He is the author of four books, his latest is titled: Inspired People Produce Results (McGraw Hill 2013). 

Christian Leadership Alliance

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Christian Leadership Alliance equips and unites leaders to transform the world for Christ. We are the leaders of Christ-centered organizations who are dedicated to faithful stewardship for greater kingdom impact.

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