TSB 057: When Goodbye Is A New Beginning: How to Give A Pink Slip

capacity building communication leadership management nonprofit the saturday boardroom Feb 03, 2024
TSB 057: When Goodbye Is A New Beginning: How to Give A Pink Slip

I didn’t sleep a wink the night before. I kept thinking about what I was going to say, how I would keep from crying, and would she hate me when it was all over.

Mindy was my colleague, and my friend, but something had changed.  For the last six months, she was going from crisis to crisis, professionally and personally, and my boss said I had to let her go.  We put her on a performance improvement plan three months prior, and I really wanted her to succeed, but she and I both knew what was going to happen.  

I have to admit, the hardest transition in the workplace is going from a colleague to someone’s boss.  Few make the transition easily, most of us struggle with the changing nature of these relationships, and I was no exception.

I let Mindy go that day, and we both survived it, but our relationship has never been the same.  Mindy is successful now.  She found a role that was better suited to her talents, and allowed her the flexibility she needed to deal with her family situation.  We talk from time to time, but the closeness is gone. 

If all of us had focused on Mindy’s strengths, and acknowledged the misalignment, maybe we could have prevented the need to fire her.  

These days, I am laser-focused on identifying the strengths of members of my team and making sure they are in roles that set them up for success, that’s why I LOVE using the Predictive Index as a part of my hiring and team management process.

But I still have to fire people from time to time, and here’s what I’ve learned.

First, it’s essential to recognize that while our mission is to make a positive impact in the world, we also have a responsibility to ensure the sustainability and effectiveness of our organization. This sometimes means making tough decisions, including parting ways with team members. However, how we handle these situations can profoundly impact the individual involved and our team's morale and culture.

  1. Prepare Thoughtfully:

Before the conversation, take time to reflect. Ensure that all other avenues have been explored and that this decision is the last resort. Prepare yourself to handle the meeting with sensitivity and care, understanding that you are about to significantly impact someone's life.

  1. Provide a Clear, Respectful Explanation:

During the meeting, be honest yet empathetic. Offer a clear explanation for the decision, focusing on the situation's facts rather than personal attributes. It's crucial to communicate that this decision was not made lightly and that it involves factors beyond the individual's control or performance.

  1. Offer Support and Assistance:

Discuss the next steps and offer resources to aid their transition. Whether it's assistance with job searching, offering a reference, or providing career counseling, these gestures show that although their journey with our organization is ending, we genuinely care about their future success.

  1. Listen with Empathy:

Give the individual space to voice their feelings. Listening is one of the most compassionate acts we can offer during such a difficult time. It acknowledges the person's value and respects their emotions, providing a space for dignity amidst the pain of separation.

  1. Follow-Up:

After the initial conversation, don't let it be the last. Check-in to offer continued support, answer any questions, and ensure they have access to the resources mentioned. This follow-up illustrates that our care for team members extends beyond their tenure with us.

  1. Reflect and Learn:

Finally, use this experience as a learning opportunity. Reflect on the organization's processes and your approach to this challenging task. How can we improve? How can we better support our team and prevent future situations like this? This is a chance to grow and enhance our organization's culture of kindness and support.

While the decision to let someone go is never easy, it is sometimes necessary. However, it is the manner in which we carry out these decisions that truly reflects our organization's values and culture. 

By approaching this process with empathy, respect, and support, we not only honor the individual's contributions but also reinforce the compassionate foundation upon which our organization is built.

Let us continue to lead with our hearts, even in the toughest of times, for it is in these moments that our true strength and character shine brightest.

That's all for today. I'll see you again next Saturday!


Whenever you're ready, there are three ways we can help you:

  1. Register for one of our upcoming workshops here. 
  2. Learn the strengths and growth areas for your team and its members here.
  3. Get expert advice to help transform the culture of your organization and develop better leaders here. 
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