If there’s one thing I wish wasn’t part of my job, it’s letting people go. But it’s a leader’s responsibility to recognize when someone has to move on. No matter how fair you think you’re being, how gently you treat the situation, or how good your intentions are — the person on the receiving end will be hurt. There’s no easy way to do it, but there’s one thing I do every time: I call them personally.
Companies rarely take the time to follow up with ex-employees, which is fair; it might seem unnecessary to drag out an already difficult situation.To me, though, reaching out when the dust has settled is a way to show that we truly care about what happens next. Things didn’t work out, but it doesn’t take away from the person’s contributions to the company.
Here are the 3 reasons I believe everyone should check in with dismissed staff.
1. It Shows Respect and Provides Closure
It’s tough to let someone go, but it’s nothing compared to how the employee feels. It’s important to show compassion and be respectful — in the moment and in the aftermath, too.
Once we had to let our leader of IT Operations go when it became clear that his expectations for the job and our expectations for him were not in sync. I called him a few weeks later and he told me that even though he wished there’d been a different outcome, he felt he’d been treated with dignity. We both gained the closure we needed and walked away with a mutual respect for each other.
Not every situation will be like this; I’ve had a variety of responses over the years, and not all have been constructive. But every employee who has ever worked for us has played a role in our success and will always be a part of our story. Our motto is “It’s All About People.” This isn’t just something we preach — we practice it in everything we do.
2. It Breaks Down Barriers
Even if someone had a positive experience at your company, getting fired inevitably will leave a bad taste in their mouth. They may have lingering questions or feedback they didn’t feel comfortable giving in the office. Reaching out gives them the chance to get these final things off their chest. It can also provide you with insight for how to improve your company, too.
Talking one-on-one takes the pressure off and helps to break down hierarchies. Our corporate office has roughly 450 employees, so turnover is unavoidable. But whether we’ve worked one-on-one for years or not at all, everyone receives the same follow-up.
For the most part, people are pleasantly surprised that we took the time to reach out. A personal phone call lets people know that we value them and their efforts.
3. It Sets the Tone for the Future
This practice isn’t a last-ditch attempt to justify to people why we let them go. In my mind, it’s simply the right thing to do. Losing a job is one of the most stressful events people go through. But even though it’s a necessary part of being in a leadership role, it doesn’t mean losing decency and respect for others.
I strongly believe that what we put out into the world will ultimately come back around — so treating people fairly is my top priority, in business and in life. We put people first and our success as an organization is a byproduct of our culture. We do everything in our power to treat our people with the respect they deserve, even when we have to cut them loose.
Yes, it might be awkward and not everyone will want to hear from someone who let them go. But at the end of the day, the best you can do is be empathetic and trust that everyone will recover in time. When you take the time to reach out and check in, you might be surprised by the response.