An award-winning HR Tech entrepreneur and champion of female entrepreneurship from Birmingham, UK

You’re fired: is there a right way to let staff go?

My time in business has provided quite a journey and changed how I’ve approached dismissing employees over the years. My journey started as a first-time employer at 21 years old with a small domestic cleaning business. I didn’t think about HR and employment law beyond the basics; my focus was on finding new customers.

The first time I let someone go was very much a Lord Sugar; you’re fired! approach

The first time I let someone go was very much a Lord Sugar, “you’re fired!” approach to dealing with someone who was often late, didn’t do the best of jobs, and everything came to a head when she started an argument and swore at me. Did I do the right thing for the business? Yes. The individual’s poor work ethic was getting her team member down, who had to do more work to compensate. Did I do the right thing for myself? Yes. I didn’t want the hassle of dealing with the situation which had gotten out of hand.

Sometime after, I started losing domestic customers as during the economic conditions of 2009, I found that, as some of my customers started losing their jobs, having their homes cleaned was one of their first outgoings to get rid of. It became apparent that to survive, I’d need to focus on commercial contracts and so I made the decision to make two domestic cleaners redundant. Unlike the last staff member to go, this kept me up at night as I played out how to have the conversation, but it had to be done. I did the right thing for the business, and it was able to survive, but something about going through this situation stuck with me.

During the time leading up to the redundancies, I found myself searching online for resources on how to go about it. I also found that the change in business direction led me to deal with commercial customers who had a lot of questions relating to employment law and staff training, for example. Something about the topics sparked an interest in me, and I ended up putting myself through a few Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) courses.

How I ended up working in HR to where I am today as an HR software vendor is a much longer story. But my early experiences of dismissing staff, followed by education and experiences in the HR world, taught me a lot about doing the right thing, which is far more comprehensive than a business in survival mode. On reflection, did I go about letting the three staff members go in the right way? No, I didn’t.

Having been through a dismissal process in my current business, I can say that it was a lot different this time – it followed many conversations, performance reviews, and SMART goals being set but not obtained. If you’re the business owner I once was, my first tip is to set your feelings aside and treat people fairly.

Some of my journey was first featured in The Telegraph, including tips from myself and other professionals on handling dismissals  –  Is there a right way to let people go?

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