If you have to let an employee go, make sure you do these 3 things

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Whether it’s for low performance or a reduction in work, letting an employee go is never a fun or easy thing to do. This week we’re talking about the 3 biggest things to keep in mind if you find yourself in this situation. This is not tips on how to have the conversation and what you should or should not say. We’re talking about how to take care of YOU and your team when this happens. Listen and learn.

Mentioned in the podcast:
1. Download the one pager to ask your manager to pay for your coaching: https://lindsaylymancoaching.com/expense
2. Get the 3 steps to deal with a bad manager workshop: https://lindsaylymancoaching.com/badmanager

Want to get help with your specific situation? Let’s schedule a coffee chat. I offer a limited number of 1:1 coffee chats each week. There is no charge for this call so spots fill up fast. Grab time on my calendar at https://lindsaylymancoaching.com/chat and let’s get you feeling unstuck today.

Real quick, if you’re struggling with bad managers or leaders, listen up. I recently did a workshop talking about the three steps to deal with a bad manager, and it’s gotten so much response and engagement I’m having a hard time keeping up on replying to people about it. And I want to make sure you get it as well. It’s totally free, there’s zero obligation. Click the link in the show notes or go to LindsaylymanCoaching.com/badmanager and access this workshop to know the three steps to take if you are stuck with a bad manager. You got this, we’ll talk soon.


Hey, I’m Lindsay Lyman. I worked almost 12 years at Amazon and saw so many brilliant and successful overachievers burn themselves out and leave their jobs because they’re so stressed and anxious. But guess what? Having a successful career does not have to be at the expense of your mental sanity and personal time. There’s an easier way, and I can show you how. Let’s do this.


Hey y’all, how you doing? If you’ve been a listener for a while, you may recall that I have mentioned before that Christmas Eve 2022 my craft room flooded in the basement. And again, hindsight, we’re fine, we’re good, but it took about eight months to go through insurance repair, all that jazz. Well, guess what happened again this past week? Yeah, you guys, water follows me everywhere I go. I could tell you six different times we’ve had flooding in our house. I don’t know what it is, it just loves me. But this past week, I was sitting in my front room and I heard some weird crackle snap pipe sound. You know, sometimes when you turn off the water, it kind of makes like a loud clank or whatever, it sounded like that but ten times worse. And what do you know, sure enough, that same blasted pipe in my craft room broke again. So good news, um, I was home and not on a trip I was supposed to be on because I was sick. So that’s a blessing in hindsight. And I was able to catch it quickly. And yes, there’s still, we’ve got carpet and drywall and insulation and plumbing and electrical and all the repairs we get to do again. But guess what? I know how to do it now. I’m a lot better at it than I’ve been through it once. So I hope your January is going a little bit better than mine is. It does kind of feel like it’s been the longest month ever. And I’m not going to lie, I’m ready for February 2024. You’ve been rough to me, but I’m not giving up on you, girl. I see you, I’m coming for you.


Today, I want to talk about three important things to remember if you find yourself in a situation where you have to let an employee go, whether that’s due to their lack of performance and you need to fire them, or even if you’re going through a layoff situation and you have to reduce your workforce. These are three key things I really want you to keep in mind. I’m not going to talk today about what you should say to the person, how you should frame it, start out with a compliment, all those things like your HR team hopefully can help set you up for success there and teach you how to do that. The three things I want to talk to you about are really focused on how do you take care of you and the larger team when this happens, okay? So again, I’m not going to tell you, “Here’s the right way to let someone go, please tell me you have resources available to help you to do that.” That’s not what this is about. I want to talk about you and your larger team in this. When I look back at my 20-year corporate experience, the my first experience with someone getting fired was my first job out of college. And I think it was probably about a year and a half, maybe two years in. And I worked for this Market marketing company, and I was like the very junior person on this 5% team. And the second to the top person they were trying to fire. And oh, now that I look back at it, it’s hilarious. But at the moment, I was early on in my career. I didn’t know how these things went or what to think. But I was like, “Wow, what is going on here?” Anyways, long story short, everyone knew they were trying to fire this person because for a couple days, HR would come to us, we all sat in the same area, and say, “Hey, we need you to be here at your desks during this time frame and just act natural, act normal, we just need you to be here.” So we finally figured out it’s because they were letting this employee go, and they kind of wanted us to be there so this person didn’t go crazy or something. I don’t know what they were expecting. Anyways, the reason this happened for 3 days was because the person they were trying to to fire kept going home after lunch. It turns out you can’t fire someone if they’re not in the office with this company. So you know, hindsight, it’s a funny thing. But I was a little bit freaked out. I was like, “What is going on? What should I expect?” So we’re all like at our desk expecting this person to come back and be freaking out and trying to steal things or cause a big scene. I don’t know, that wasn’t this person’s personality and not what happened at all in the end, by the way. But the fact that HR was so worried had me this naive employee freaking out. I also will never forget the first time I had to fire someone. It was terrible, and I hated every minute of it. And every other person I’ve had to let go since then has also been terrible, every single one. That leads to my first point of how do you take care of you during this process? The first thing I want you to keep in mind is I want you to stop trying to feel good about it. Let it be hard, let it be terrible. I personally don’t think we want to get to a place where letting someone go is easy. I think if that’s the case, we have a whole other set of problems. Even if this person deserves it, if they’ve earned it, if they’ve continued to not meet expectation, some of my clients have had to lay people that were stealing and doing terrible dishonest things to the company. And still, there’s a part of us as humans that it doesn’t feel good. We know it’s going to cause distress, and it’s hard for the other person, doesn’t matter if they deserve it or not. I think it’s a very healthy human thing to not feel good when we have to lay someone off. Stop trying to feel good about it and plan accordingly. Take care of you. This is going to be hard. Don’t overdo it. Do things that you enjoy, that you love. Take care of your body, eat healthy things, try to get sleep, try to move it. Ask for support, for connection while you’re going through this. We don’t want to feel good about this. Here’s the continuation:


As humans, we don’t want to become jerks who don’t care when other humans lose their jobs. Okay, so allow yourself to not be okay and do what you need to do to take care of yourself during this timeframe where you’re not going to be okay.


What usually happens to me when I’m in this situation that I need to let someone go, the first thing to go for me is I usually start having a lot of sleep challenges. I eat a ton of junk food and Diet Coke. I tend to struggle to focus at work or I get hyper-focused on things. I spend a lot of time doing little things that feel important at work, but not really doing the big projects, again because I’m really struggling to focus, but I want to get little hits of dopamine to feel productive. Usually, as I’m in this hard phase, I’m a little bit snappier and on edge. I think about it a lot. I triple-check all of the HR stuff and processes, and I dread it and count it down until it happens. So at the same time, while I’m not okay, I do everything I can to maybe take a nap during the day since I know I’m not sleeping well. I’m going to try to make sure that I’m drinking water because I know that feels better in my body than Diet Coke. I might reach out to some friends and ask to have a night to hang out or go see a movie. I might read a book that I enjoy and give myself permission to let the laundry go. I might try to push back some deadlines at work or reschedule some meetings so that I can just give myself permission to not be okay during this period. Let it be hard. This is a beautiful part of being human. Okay, so don’t try to feel good about it but do what you need to do to take care of yourself while you’re not okay.


The second thing that’s important to remember is after the initial conversation with this person happens, you are going to be going through this emotional roller coaster. You’re probably going to get really nervous, and your palms are going to get sweaty, and your body temperature is going to get jacked up. And you’re going to go have this conversation, and we have no idea how the other person’s going to respond. It may go well, it may not, we don’t know, that’s okay. Let them be them. But at the end of this, after the initial conversation is over, give yourself a break. Plan on taking some time after that initial meeting. Now, if this is happening at the end of the day, maybe that means for the rest of the night, just let yourself do nothing. Go out to eat, go to bed early, watch TV, hang out with friends, like whatever you need to do to just kind of veg out for the night, do that. If it’s happening during the middle of the day, block a half an hour at minimum, but ideally the rest of the day off of your calendar. Don’t tell yourself you’re going to get some stuff done after this happens. You emotionally need to give yourself time to recover. There’s a lot of feelings. Let yourself be a mess. The first time I had to let someone go, my manager was amazing and knew this was the first time I was doing this and was very supportive of me. And he knew I was going to need a break after I had this conversation with the person. And the conversation was actually in the middle of the day, and the sweet manager, who I’m still friends with to this day, he was waiting outside the door the meeting ended, he came in, and he said, “Hey Lind,” he had a Diet Coke for me, he set it down, he said, “I’ve booked this room for the next hour. Why don’t you stay here or go for a walk, do what you need to do, give yourself a minute.” That was the most helpful thing he could have done for me. I wasn’t smart enough to know I was going to need a break afterwards. I didn’t plan ahead. I was so freaked out and worked up about having this conversation. I wasn’t really planning after. But I sat in that room and I had myself a little cry, and I drank the Diet Coke, and I went for a little walk, and I felt so much better after one, the conversation was over, but two, just giving myself permission to keep being a mess, keep not being okay, but giving myself a little bit of permission to recover from that emotional thing I had just gone through. Okay, so my first recommendation is don’t try to feel good about this but take care of you while you’re not okay. And second, make sure you’re taking a break after the conversation happens.


The third thing that I think is really important to keep in mind, especially if this is happening because of layoffs, is to let your team not be okay as well. Let them struggle with it. Now when someone gets laid off or fired, there’s this awkwardness because everyone kind of knows what went down, but no one knows the details. And if it’s someone that you have to let go, there’s probably a lot of rumors about what happened, and it’s not appropriate for you as the leader to provide details and give all the ins and outs that people want to know and are talking about. Okay, it’s going to be awkward. Let it be awkward. Acknowledge that this is hard, but do not get into a toxic positive leadership state. Do not be trying to drag these people out of being afraid for their jobs or worried about what they might get laid off for. Let them not be okay. If you know how to let yourself not be okay and take care of you, you’re not as inclined to need your team to feel good for you to feel good. Logically, if part of the team got laid off because of a reduction in workforce, no matter what you say or do, the rest of the team is probably going to be a little worried as to if they’re next and have some insecurity. It makes sense. Let them feel that way. Let them be worried. Talk to your team, acknowledge the elephant in the room. Let them know it’s okay for them to not be okay. And then as the leader, be very honest and clear in what the plan is. Again, we’re not doing this from the standpoint of we’re trying to motivate and get everyone excited and to feel good. But if a portion of the team was laid off or a person was let go and there’s work to be covered and done, be clear and honest on what the plan is to cover that work. And if you don’t know and don’t have a plan, say that. Be very clear. Say, “I don’t know, and I need your help figuring it out,” because the burden of the additional work is going to fall to your team. Let them know you’re aware of this and you want them to help prioritize things and come to you so that you can help provide cover and shift things around. If you have this type of working relationship with your team, you can even be a little bit vulnerable and honest with yourself on how you’re doing. Again, this isn’t about like, “Oh, woe is us as the leader,” or “Woe was the team, team.” Truthfully, The hardest person that has to deal with all this is the one that got let go. But it’s okay for you to not be okay and to share that with your team in an appropriate manner. Create an environment where it’s okay for them to not be okay. There is a time and a place to inspire and motivate them to move forward, but those first couple of days after this initially happens are usually not it. Check in with them, get curious on how they’re doing, how they’re feeling. Ask them what would be most helpful. Teams trust leaders that are as open and honest as possible. They don’t trust leaders that are giving kind of the BS party line that the company wants you to sell and that doesn’t have a tolerance for the team to not be okay. Trust comes in these really hard, raw moments. Let it be. Having to do this is a very hard part of being a leader on a team. I’m a strong believer that there’s opposition in all things. There’s a Ying to the Yang to every action. There’s an equal and opposite reaction. Life is 50/50. It’s very hard and emotionally challenging when someone loses their job, just like it’s very exciting and rewarding and fulfilling when someone gets a job. This is the opposite side of the coin. Let’s stop resisting it. Let’s stop pretending it’s okay. Let’s stop trying to make everyone feel good and just take a minute and let it be hard. The more you’re able to do this, the ironic thing is the faster you and your team will get into that groove where you do feel productive and connected and highly functional as a team again as things have shifted and changed. It will happen. It may just need some time. The less you’re in a rush to get there, the quicker it will actually happen. So as a recap, my three key suggestions are: stop trying to feel good about it, make sure you give yourself a break after the conversation to come down from that emotionally charged moment, and let your team not be okay as well.


Alright y’all, you’re amazing, you got this, we’ll talk soon. If what you’re learning from this podcast is helping, this is just the beginning. Each week I offer a limited number of coffee chats so that you and I can connect one-on-one and talk specifically about what’s going on for you. You’ll leave this call feeling more hopeful and motivated, but I’m also going to teach you a few things to try right away to get unstuck. Space is very limited, and these are free, so grab your spot before they’re gone. Click the link in the show notes or go to lindsaylymancoaching.com/chat and sign up today. You got this!

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Hey, I’m Lindsay Lyman

I spent the last ~12 years growing my career at Amazon. I’ve built teams, launched new products, and created my own jobs. As a certified coach, I teach people how to manage the noise in their head to feel motivated and valued at work again.

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