Consultant & Trainer
Lilly Pinon
Hr Manager
Soft Skill Trainer / Hr Consultant - India
Rajat Joshi
Hr Consulting ,trainer -creative Thinking

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Could this be true? Many people would think not. But with the right approach, along with the use of a few well chosen phrases, this is possible.

Roosevelt famously said ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself’. The same is true when thinking about a tough conversation with an employee. If we anticipate conflict and argument then fear follows. With fear comes a combination of defence and aggression, so we march into the conversation communicating that we expect a fight from the beginning with our body language and tone of voice. Whatever attitude we take into the meeting will be copied by the individual themselves. If you expect a fight you will get one.

What do we actually want as an outcome? Well, we want improvement and if that is not possible for the person to recognize this and leave. And for the conversation itself? We want this to be respectful, honest, calm and solution focused. But how is this achieved?

The first thing to hold in your mind is that you are having this conversation to help the individual. Your only aim is for them is to be happy and successful in their job role, either their current one or another. Remember there is a reason that you are having this conversation. They either don’t fit in the culture or they are failing to make the grade. They will know this, even if they don’t admit it to you, and it does not feel good to fail. Dripping water, over time, wears through stone. A steady sense of failure, over time, erodes self-esteem, confidence and happiness.

The second image to hold strongly in your mind is that, although they may be failing in their current job role with you, they have the capability and potential to be successful somewhere else. Keep talking about what they are good at and where you would see them thriving (amazing how often you do this and they answer with ‘Yeh, my mum always said I would be good at x!’). Thank them for what they have done for you, however small, even if it is just ‘You have a cheeky grin that lights up the floor’.

Introduce the topic of their shortcomings by talking about what the company needs from their current role. Detail it all out, not only the deliverables in terms of figures but also attitude such as positivity, team player, able to work own initiative. By the time you have finished they will have pretty much figured that they are falling short! Just finish the list with ‘And currently you are not meeting those targets’ with some recent examples to demonstrate.

If employment law permits you may then be saying ‘And as a result I regrettably have to let you go’. If not, you will be holding a series of conversations about them improving. Detail the exact short-term improvements you need to witness and set an early review date. If they hit those targets set some more and congratulate yourself on bringing someone back from the brink. If they do not then ask ‘You agreed to deliver x improvements, and yet have not, what happened?’

Eventually, if they continue to fail to hit improvement targets the realization will be dawning on them that they are not going to make the grade. You then come in with ‘I have no choice but to let you go. I am sad to see you go as you are good at x but you are not fulfilling the key requirements of this role. My hands are tied. However, I wish you the very best of luck in the future and I hope you will seriously consider my opinion that your skills are best suited in y field’.

This is when they say ‘Thank you


Good to read your post. Please allow me to share few nuggets on this.

Firing people is not an easy task for the HR professionals especially when the organization faces rough times.

When HR is involved in this task the following things needs to be done:

Insist that the Line Manager ( his/her Supervisor) is there in the meeting with the would be ex-employee.

Tough talk on results/expectations not met should be done by the Line Manager.

HR needs to take empathetic approach so that the would be ex-employee doesn’t suffer emotionally by this event.

HR needs to treat them with dignity and ensure they are escorted out of the office with grace.

Their F&F settlement should have good payout so that they don’t suffer as they are not likely to get the job immediately.

Many good organizations have a tie up with top agencies for the placement of displaced employees.

HR should keep in touch with them post their separation.

All the above efforts are required to ensure the Brand Equity of the Organization is not diluted.


Rajat Joshi

Actually, the Line Managers are the ones who handle the Human Resources. HR professionals are there to implement the policies of the Management, co-ordinate, take actions as per Management guidelines. Therefore, in all activities concerning performance or otherwise, recruiting Team Members or relieving them etc. the concerned Line Managers should be fully involved. As the old proverb goes " Employees do not leave the organisation, but leave the Managers' is apt in this circumstance also. The concerned Line Managers should be in a position to explain and clarify to the employee who is quitting or who is getting sacked, the appropriate reasons from his point of view, as Team Leader.
I’m not a manager but I’m an engineer in a team . In my case , I was asking manager to give work which suits me i.e., related to my education and projects . I’m a fresher and joined company xxx as electronics design engineer . I waited for 5 months to give me work worth doing but manager was having zero technical knowledge neither he allows us to build nor he knows . He calls third part to do all things and gives us PowerPoint or word document . After asking in meeting to relieve me of my team ,he got real upset and started to blackmail that you will be out of the company in 3months after going out of this team and all stuff . But I didn’t stop I refused to do menial jobs for him and finally he asked what you want to do . I said I’m interested in embedded systems and I will not going to work in this team for 3years as you were asking me to do for a two day workshop which thought me the stuff I already know .
After 1 month to make afraid he kept a mail to HR and other managers saying I was relieved from his team and blah blah . I just kept a two word message “THANK YOU” with everyone in CC .
I made my mind I will do masters if I don’t get a chance in other electronics project . This guy interviews me for 1hour saying he works for IOT. This is a famous MNC HQ in Hyderabad engineering service company .
Managers should think what a employee needs are we giving him proper work , will his career grow ?

One of our Employee is leaving today after his resignation I want to write a Thank you Email or letter to him. So how can I.If any sample available then please share
Excellent post. I remember, as HR manager I fired many people especially while downsizing. I sent them to thank you emails and I would always be thankful to their efforts for company.
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