Momentum Podcast: 488

Handling Unexpected Terminations

by Alex Charfen

Episode Description

A surprise termination, where either you have to fire someone or someone quits without notice, can be one of the most destabilizing events on your team.  

When sharing this information with your team, transparency is the easiest and most consistent policy.  Ambiguity will drive gossip.  Be careful talking negatively about someone who has left. The more respectful you are about what has gone on, the better things will go for your team.  

Let the remaining team know that transitions create opportunity. Terminations are always an opportunity.  They are opportunities to find inefficiencies, an opportunity to bring in new energy, an opportunity to grow the business and the remaining team.  

If you're a listener of the podcast I would love it if you could leave a review on iTunes. If you've already left a review, please know that I appreciate you and thank you for being a listener and giving me your time every day.

Full Audio Transcript

Terminations are one of the most destabilizing things that happens on a team. When you let someone go or when somebody quits employment and leaves your team, it can destabilize everyone out. We recently had a client go through this. In fact, we recently went through this on our team. The client reached out and asked the question, how do I tell my team when someone quits unexpectedly?

Let me share with you the strategies we've discovered over time.

I'm Alex Charfen and this is the Momentum podcast made for empire builders, game changers, trailblazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers and creators of all kinds. Those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and we are obsessed with creating momentum, so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution.

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Make no mistake as an entrepreneur, a unexpected termination on your team, a surprise termination of any kind is one of the most destabilizing events that can happen on a team. Here's what I mean by a unexpected termination. It's when you have to terminate somebody unexpectedly or when someone just quits and maybe doesn't even give you notice, that unexpected termination, that quick change on the team, that destabilization of the removal of a person can completely and totally throw your entire team sideways. As entrepreneurs far too often we don't understand what really happens to our team and how they feel when there is a termination. This podcast is in part for one of our clients who recently had this happen on her team. She didn't know what to do, and she wanted clarity as to how do you handle it when somebody leaves. This is one of those things that as an entrepreneur, especially if you're new to hiring, and you haven't done a lot of hiring the first time somebody leaves, it can be one of the most dramatic shots you've ever had.

Especially if it was that was not expected. Like I said in the Intro, we actually just went through this ourselves. Here's what I want you to understand about a termination. Terminations are always an opportunity. Always there's an opportunity to uncover what the person wasn't doing. There's an opportunity to find somebody new. There's an opportunity to bring new energy into your company. There's an opportunity to find inefficiencies and things that were ineffective and make them better. There's an opportunity to grow the business. Now, that doesn't mean we want people to be leaving our company, but we as entrepreneurs have to frame this as an opportunity, or we can get stuck when someone leaves. We can actually... I've watched entrepreneurs get completely derailed, get upset, stopped talking to their team, miss meetings all over a termination because they just don't know how to deal with it.

In fact, over and over again, I've watched people get emotional, entrepreneurs get emotional and get upset and be hurt. Here's what's interesting. The people on your team see you as an entrepreneur for all the things that you are confident and capable and willing to take risks and willing to put yourself out there and willing to expose yourself to vulnerability, but they don't see all the things that you are on the other side of that coin, which is open to vulnerability and sensitive and having been attacked and feel attacked and feeling like, maybe you're not doing the right thing and feeling vulnerable, all of those things or how we feel, but people don't see that in us. In fact, when they quit, oftentimes they don't think it's going to have an effect on the entrepreneur or the team. Oftentimes they don't feel like they're really doing anything that's going to slow down or cause any type of challenge.

The reality is is this is an area of massive challenge and massive instability. So here's the epiphany I had about this. When I was younger. When I was in my twenties I watched what other companies did. This is an area of near zero transparency in most companies. In my 20s I was consulting with larger corporations, a lot of fortune 500 companies, some startups, but mostly larger. And here's what they did. In all cases, when somebody quit, they would tell the team, and you probably know this, if you've worked in corporate America at all or in a corporation at all, they would tell the team so and so left to pursue other opportunities. That was code for, they were terminated, and we don't want to tell you why or they quit, and we don't want to tell you why. When you share with your team something like they left to pursue other options, here's what happens.

The entire team knows you're not being transparent. The entire team knows it's not what really happened. The entire team now feels far more scared than they were just a few minutes earlier and the entire team feels far more exposed than they were just a few minutes earlier. That feeling can slow your team down, take away momentum and make it so you don't accomplish what you want to accomplish as a team. Here's how you can handle an unexpected termination. So number one, ambiguity and lack of clarity with terminations will drive gossip like crazy. If you go in and you tell your team so and so left because they decided to pursue other opportunities, you are almost assured that you're going to have massive gossip, conjecture, people trying to figure out what happened and it's human nature. They want to know what happened. When there's a termination of any kind on your team, the best policy is to be transparent and tell people what happened.

Hey, somebody quit. Because they got a better opportunity. Somebody left the company because they weren't happy in their role. Somebody left the company and they didn't tell us why. So we really can't tell you. Be as as transparent as you possibly can and let the team know what's really going on. Transparency is the easiest and most consistent policy. You just let the team know what's happening and then remember, as you let them know, any termination creates instability more than you can possibly understand. But every termination also creates opportunity. What was that person tolerating? What were they putting up with? What was that person doing in their position that you can now improve and move in the right direction and make better? So first be real and respectful. Here's what you need to know. When someone leaves, tell the team in a real and respectful way what was going on.

When I say real and respectful, that means you never talk negatively about the person who's left. Be careful about talking negatively about the person who's left to be careful about expressing negative feelings about the person who's left. This is a place where honestly, I could use some coaching from myself because even inadvertently, sometimes I will say, "Oh well we need to fix that because this person did it the wrong way and they're no longer with the company." Even that inadvertent statement about the former person can cause challenges with the person you're talking to. It's obvious if you're going to talk about somebody else, you'll probably talk about them. So learn how to stop talking about the person who's gone. Be Real respectful and then let it go. Here's what we do. I share that somebody left the team or that we've asked somebody to leave the team.

I open it for questions to our team, let them ask whatever they want to ask. We have a conversation about it. Then once that conversation is done, it's done. We ask everyone to honor the absent and stop the conversation. I ask always that terminations do not become a topic for gossip and conjecture and discussion because we're literally talking behind somebody's back. We're not on [inaudible 00:08:05] absent. We're talking about someone on the team who's left. Here's why this is such an important policy for you to have and so such an important way for you to act because you can have the policy. We don't talk about it someone after they're terminated, but if you do it, then you break it and everybody else does too. So the reason why this is so important is someone on the team has a strong relationship with the person who's left than they do with you.

In almost 100% of cases someone on the team is going to be upset that person left, or many people on the team are going to be upset that person left. The more respect you treat this situation with, the more gracious you are, the more courteous you are, the less argumentative and frustrated and angry you are about what's going on, the better things will go for you. In fact, the more you are gracious, the more your team will fill in and help you get what needs to get done. Then when you tell your team about what's happened with the individual who's left, just remind them you have a no gossip policy and that no gossip policy is absolute and there is no tolerance. Once you have discussed it, ask them to refrain from talking about the person behind their back.

Let's honor the absent and move forward. Here's the result that has come of this. When I was younger and I would have a termination, it was incredibly destabilizing to the team. I would then talk about it and get upset about it and tell people how frustrated I was with it. I'd express my displeasure to the team. I would tell them how angry I was with the person who left. This was of course, all when I had no experience and honestly very little perspective. I was in my 20s and I had a team that I didn't really know how to run and I was just doing things by feel, by instinct, by emotion, and it was absolutely the wrong thing to do. Today, when somebody leaves our team or when we have asked somebody to leave our team, there's respect. There's a process and it's clear and transparent and there is a minimal amount of challenge to the team, but there's always, always some constraints, some friction, some challenge created by somebody leaving always.

You have to replace what they're doing. You have to get somebody new or a series of processes or people to cover what they were doing and here's how you can do that the fastest. Be honest with your team. Tell them what's really gone on. Help them understand, close the conversation and then move on because here's a fact of running a business. You will have unexpected terminations more than once. We've all had them. They are just part of life and when you have an unexpected termination, it is an opportunity for you to act gracious, for you to be real with your team, for you to have transparency with them, pull them closer and get back into momentum. Most entrepreneurs led a termination derail productivity. You don't have to, you can actually use it to help you create even more momentum. Every termination is a challenge, but it is just as big an opportunity.

We have 255 reviews for the Momentum podcast and this weekend we just hit 1.5 million downloads. So as a listener, I just want to thank you. Thank you for listening to this podcast. Thank you for helping us hit that crazy massive achievement in milestone. I'd like to ask you a favor if you haven't left or sorry, if you haven't yet, please leave a review for us on iTunes at Momentum Podcast for the Entrepreneurial Personality Type and let me know what you think of this podcast. I would really appreciate it. You can go to iTunes, leave a review, and thanks again for helping us hit 1.5 million downloads. It's a milestone that is incredible. We never expected this to happen when we started this podcast in July of '17 and I'm just proud and excited at the impact that momentum is making. Thank you everyone. And I look forward to putting out another podcast tomorrow and continuing the discussion.

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