A Great Workplace Leader Knows When (and How) to Let Someone Go

by Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers on May 22, 2014

Every great workplace leader will tell you they are only as good as the team of individuals they surround themselves with. This means building a solid team, one comprised of various characteristics that all complement each other. As the facilities manager, the strength of your team is of the utmost importance. Throughout your career, you will likely find yourself in the hot seat more than once—required to let go those that aren’t contributing, as well as finding their replacements.

Although the process of letting go is never an easy one, it is sometimes a necessary evil. How you handle this task defines who you are as a leader, as well as how you will be viewed by those remaining on your team. A great leader takes this process as a learning experience, gaining a clearer understanding of what to look for and require in the next candidate.

Preparation is Critical

While you might view the termination process as a necessary evil in today’s work, you would be well served to consider the employee’s feelings in this matter. This means being well informed and prepared ahead of time, with a clear plan of action in place. Before terminating a teammate, ensure you have Great workplace leaders know when and how to fire a team member.properly documented the employee’s performance.

Utilization of a software platform such as an Integrated Workspace Management System (IWMS) helps you measure an employee’s productivity, building a solid foundation for your termination case. Maintain a paper trail of all activity including performance, write-ups, evaluations and counseling. This paper trail not only safeguards you against potential lawsuits, it also provides said employee the information they need to become a better performer in their next position. In developing your paper trail, seek input from HR, legal and executives-they may have something to contribute that you hadn’t yet pictured.

Key to proper preparation is ensuring you have the necessary paperwork in place for the terminated team member. Ensure the employee has necessary documentation regarding severance, COBRA and 401(k), as well as documents to sign, explanation of confidentiality obligations and return of facility property. Emotions will likely be at an all-time high, so the more guesswork you take out of the equation the better.

Keep It Professional

Every great workplace leader and facilities manager must maintain a healthy balance of professionalism and emotion. You have properly examined the terminated worker’s performance and have the paperwork to back it up. The employee may even have a good idea their termination is on the horizon. Even so, there is nothing that can properly prepare one for the emotions that come with losing a job. Emotions run high—everything from fear, anger and the feeling of rejection. While you cannot control how the employee responds, you can control your own emotions. Stay positive and uplifting, showing empathy and patience, while maintaining an air of professionalism. How you handle this uncomfortable situation directly reflects on you as a leader.

Learn From The Experience

Now that you have terminated one of your team members, you likely have a position to fill. While letting someone go is likely one of the lowest points in your career, you have an opportunity to turn it into a positive. Spend time identifying what went wrong, as well as what went right. Evaluate the ever-evolving demands of your team, along with it’s strengths and weaknesses. Examine where your former employee fell short and identity exactly what it is you will need in your newest team member. Once you have identified your needs in a candidate, careful interview preparation is critical. Comprise a list of questions that will best reveal what a candidate will bring to the table. Inc.com’s article The Only Interview Question That Matters provides a list of questions that are sure to be revealing. Do not waste valuable time asking irrelevant questions. Instead, seek out those core questions that will provide you the knowledge you need to fill the position with someone who can grow and evolve with your organization.

As the Facilities Manager, you are tasked with the job of ensuring every facet of the facility runs smoothly and maintains productivity. In this fast-paced profession, there is no room for weak links. Facility management is a position of influence and leadership and your team looks to you for support and guidance. Key to maintaining their respect and loyalty is ensuring any clogs in the wheel are replaced. Although this sometimes requires you to take unpleasant action, the manner in which you handle the situation speaks volumes for you as a leader.


Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers

Tiffany covers leadership and marketing topics and enjoys learning about how technology shapes our industry. Before iOFFICE, she worked in local news but don't hold that against her.

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