How often, when we have a difficult conversation with someone, do we take our time getting to the point? In some cases we skirt around the issue and realize, at the end, we never actually talked about the hard stuff. I know I can be guilty of this at times, especially when it is a conversation or a topic I am not comfortable with. And sometimes I notice that I tend to deliver good news first before the bad news, and then finish the conversation with good news. This is part of our human nature. It teaches us to soften the blow of delivering “bad news” in the hopes that we can preserve the relationship and good feeling between one another. And when terminating an employee, it is one of the worst things you can do.

The art of getting to the point is something that comes easy to some and difficult to others. When I first started managing people, it was something that I struggled tremendously with, and it took time and practice to be better. However, when going through the process of terminating an employee, it is important to get to the point rather than dance around the subject. The first time I terminated an employee, I practiced delivering the news with my manager. It did not go well. Instead of getting to the point, I avoided delivering the message as long as I could. The news of terminating or laying off an employee is stand alone news and should not be diluted with anything else. It is about respecting the employee and understanding that the news they are about to hear is not easy to receive. Speaking about other topics or creating small talk diminishes the message that is going to be delivered and is disrespectful to the employee. Remember, this isn’t about your feelings it is about theirs.

A good way to focus on getting to the point is remembering your intent going into the conversation.

  • Is your intent to have a discussion on non-work related topics or it to deliver difficult news in a direct and respectful manner?
  • Am I consciously thinking about directly delivering this message or do I have other things on my mind?
  • Do I feel 100% prepared to deliver the message or should I practice one more time? This will help you, as it has for me, reflect on your delivery and help you stay focused on the discussion at hand.

Remembering your intent in delivering this message is crucial to ensuring people are respected and have a clear understanding of what is happening. People are perceptive, and delaying the real message only increases anxiety and diminishes the message you are about to deliver. Be respectful and direct during the process, and remember that this is about them, not you.

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