Why Christian Business Owners Need To Be Good At Firing People

Feb 27, 2011, Written by Sue Miley

Firing an employee seems almost anti-Christian.  You may have cringed when you read the title, but curious enough to find out why this is something you need to learn to do well.

The reason is simple.  If you own your own business eventually we all have to fire someone.

And the reason you want to be good at it is because we don’t want to create havoc and pain in another person’s life due to our ineptitude at a very delicate, but sometimes necessary, act.

We have to remember that we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves.

What Usually Happens

I have seen friends and coworkers fired often over the years.  As a counselor, I have helped picked up the pieces after a very valuable human being was devalued in the process of being let go of their job by someone who was really bad at it.

I have seen several different profiles of poor firing techniques over the years.

The Manager Who Has To Reduce the Cognitive Dissonance

A manager feels guilty about firing someone.  Why?  Because it is hard no matter what the circumstance.  To help reduce the cognitive dissonance they feel about firing the person, they have to make themselves believe that the person deserves it.  Not only are they incompetent, but they don’t care, and have messed everything up on purpose.

By the time they walk in to fire the person, they are so angry and aggravated they show these emotions in their communication of the termination.  The only way the manager can feel better about firing the person is if he convinces the employee that he is a weak, worthless employee who is incompetent and doesn’t care.  The manager will feel it necessary to go back over the list of real and imagined infractions to justify their decision.

Now the person doesn’t have a job and their self-esteem is reduced to nothing.

The Manager Who Has to be the Professional

Many times when we fire someone for the first time, we really don’t know what to do.  You know you are a manager and you feel it is your responsibility to just do it!  You don’t feel comfortable asking for advice or if you own your own business you may not have anyone to ask.

All of the sudden, your casual demeanor changes.  This isn’t the guy you have worked with for the past three years.  He isn’t the person you have had countless lunches with and listened to stories about his wife and children.

He is just an employee.  You are the boss.  You don’t know what to say so you take the professional, formal approach.  You explain the situation without feeling and give a clinical hand shake goodbye.

The person has lost their job and a friend, mentor, coworker or even boss.  The person they knew was not present in this meeting.  The employee’s grief is doubled.

The Manager Who Offers You a Roller Coaster Ride

We try not to fire people often, so it is hard to get good at it.  You want to be a fair, compassionate, loving Christian.  Where are the training classes?

You are faced with having to fire an employee.  When you talk to other employees you realize this is necessary.  You see the impact on the team and productivity.

However, it is a small business.  You are close with the employees and you know this employee has personal problems.  Yes, you have looked the other way for months.  As a matter of fact, you have let this employee go twice before.  Somehow he always talks you back into letting him stay.  Giving him one more chance.

But the performance doesn’t change for more than a few weeks.  You feel like you are on a roller coaster and the ride won’t end.

The problem for the employee is that he is learning to talk his way into or out of things, rather than to perform and be accountable.  More harm is done to this employee than just being out of a job.  He is getting mixed messages.

We are called to love others as ourselves.  Think if you were in the employee’s shoes.

What Does a “Good” Firing Look Like?

It’s easy to come up with how not to fire an employee, but how do you do it well?  As I said at the beginning, it is always a difficult and “not” fun experience for everyone involved.  In most cases, you are firing the employee for performance issues in their job or specific attitude problems in your company.  This does not define who they are as a person.  They are human and as Christians we want to treat them with kindness and compassion.

Please come back for the next post in this series to learn more about what it looks like to be “good at firing people”.

[I want to add a disclaimer to this post.  I don’t take this topic lightly.  It is because I know that being fired from a job makes such a significant impact on a person, that I believe we need to prepare and be able to do this act with the Holy Spirit’s leading.  Not just suffer through it for the few moments we have to endure. It changes lives.  We owe it to our team to take this aspect of owning our own business very seriously.  I will share more of my own personal experience in the next post too.]

Reader Interactions


  1. Darrell Hicks says

    I had an interesting experience firing an employee not long ago. I am interested in seeing if I did it in a constructive way?

    • S_Miley says

      Darrel I am sure you did! My thoughts are coming soon- look for a new post tomorrow! Let me know what you think then.

  2. David Rupert says

    In a previous position, I was known as the “the terminator” because it fell to me to get rid of substandard employees. It was never easy — there were lives at stake. i always tried to be professional, but too many of them made it personal.

  3. S_Miley says

    I think that is the part that is always difficult; no matter how much we try to do these difficult things the right way, others will always have their opinions. I guess for me I just need to know I did what I could to handle this type of thing professionally and compassionately. I want to make sure it meets God’s standards….people will always twist things to reduce their own dissonance. It may make them feel better to blame you anyway. We can only do our part.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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