How do leaders deliver difficult news?

One of the most difficult rooms a leader walks into is a boardroom with a human resources officer and an employee or who needs to be terminated from their position. The energy is thick with wonder and waiting. There is anticipation with a badge in hand. They all nervously wait and listen. Sometimes they are angry, anxious, or hungry for information. The leader hasn't had to fire a physician or another executive before. This is tricky.

There is a delicate balance between directly saying what is up. Saying “you're fired” but saying it with compassion and listening to them as well. They might say, “We've tried XYZ and it's simply not a good fit or alignment anymore.” Depending on the situation, there may room for explanation but, usually no explanation is required, and this should not be a surprise. Maybe there is an option for a package severance with a non-disclosure clause? Maybe another option suits everyone better – we can be flexible and listen to everyone’s needs.

The leaders I respect are heartfelt, they are clear and kind. They may offer a bit of feedback but there is no apology and no need to own what is not theirs. It is important that everyone understands the situation, the background assessment and request is very clear. The leader makes it clear what the next steps are. They are holding the space for what's next for this employee and the future of the next employee.

There are so many feelings and emotions and operational details to hold.
There is often, at least for me, a sense of relief or hope though. I believe that whoever is stepping away is getting some kind of opportunity for something new or better, as if it's a gift. The opportunity is open, and the possibilities are endless. Getting and delivering difficult feedback about what needs to change is hard on everyone involved. Delivering the news with clarity and kindness makes it possible.


50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.