Advice On Letting A Friend Go At Work

One of the small companies I work with was faced with having to make a tough staffing change with a long time friend one of the executives had brought in to be part of the team. Great guy, super talented – just not working out.

They asked for the DC $4.99 iPhone app on helping them work through this. Following is my advice:


There is no $4.99  course.  You come to learn to be very careful hiring people — because one day you may have to fire them and it’s almost never any fun.

You ask yourself “Why isn’t this person more successful ?

If it’s me not giving them clear directions and deadlines (setting expectations)  — then I need to fix that.

If  I placed them in a job that their not well suited for — then I need to find them another position where they can be more successful, or find them the training they need to improve their performance, or find someway/someone to help them get a job somewhere else because I goofed in matching my business problems with the person I hired to solve them.

If my teammates are clawing the person to death behind my back — I need to either invest considerable energy and team goodwill to protect him/her or recognize that my teammates don’t like this person and I made a bad hire.

If it’s none of the above then its not your problem — it’s the employee’s.

You can coach skills but you can’t coach attitude, or energy, or passion or commitment.  People either have it or they don’t.

So the next conversation needs to go something like this:

“It’s not personal and it’s not permanent but at this moment I need “x” done by someone running 100 miles per hour with their hair on fire — and despite my best efforts to work with you that simply isn’t happening.”

“I like you as a person, I respect you as a professional and I’d like to find a way to work with you again sometime in the future when things are different.  But for today, I can’t be successful the way we’re working together and I’ve decided that I need to go another direction with the work I’ve assigned to you — and you need to find a new place to work where they’ll love you and your efforts.”

“I’m sorry it ended up this way but let’s hope that our merry-go-rounds intersect further down the road.”


If your business is successful you can always hire someone back.  If your business isn’t successful you can’t do shit.

Be successful.  You can’t hire perfectly — no one can.


About dougcurling

a compassionate capitalist
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1 Response to Advice On Letting A Friend Go At Work

  1. jfayling says:

    “You can coach skills but you can’t coach attitude, or energy, or passion or commitment. People either have it or they don’t.” — I fully agree!

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