Any executive that uses a “right hand man” to fire a direct report should themselves be fired.
Firing someone is supposed to be a painful experience. You are changing someone’s life, and you should feel horrible.
I couldn’t sleep the night before the first time I fired someone.
I had just become VP Sales, and there was one sales manager that needed to go. “Richard” was incompetent, so I knew firing him was the right thing, but I still felt horrible about having to let him go.
I flew out to Boston to let Richard go. My heart was beating so hard that it felt like it might explode out of my chest.
I gathered my courage, and I told Richard we were terminating his employment. Richard, who had an issue with invading people’s personal space, got about 3 inches from my face, and said, “Why?”
I stepped back and said, “You’re region has not been performing well, so we’ve decided to make a change. The decision is final.”
We had a final check and severance ready. I handed Richard the check and he left.
I felt like garbage after firing Richard.
And that’s exactly how I always want to feel when I have to fire someone. The day I don’t feel empathy for someone that I have to fire is the day I need to stop being a manager.
An executive that doesn’t have the guts to fire someone face to face needs to resign immediately.
You can’t lead people if you don’t have integrity. I’m sorry, but you’re lacking in integrity if you can’t fire someone face to face.
There are legendary stories here in the Silicon Valley about Steve Jobs firing people on the spot (or in elevators), essentially violating all of rules of how to fire someone.
However, according to the book, Becoming Steve Jobs, by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, Jobs found it more difficult to fire people after he had children:
"When I look at people when this happens (being fired), I also think of them as being 5 years old, kind of like I look at my kids. And I think that that could be me coming home to tell my wife and kids that I just got laid off. Or that it could be one of my kids in 20 years. I never took it so personally before." Steve Jobs
I hope this story about Steve Jobs is true. And, I hope you take it personally too when you have to let someone go.
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