How and When does a Christian Fire an Employee

Don Fischer, founder of the Gap, was quoted as saying that during decades of hiring, he found that he made the right calls only half the time. And he learned to act fast when it wasn’t right because waiting only makes a bad decision worse.

Dismissing an employee fills the most courageous leaders with something between dread and terror. It is mostly mishandled badly because we avoid doing the right things for too long and then may overreact and do things too quickly and without the right heart. And Christians can confuse any spiritual clarity of the process in the name of compassion or grace.

Dismissal should be the unavoidable last resort of a healthy management process that begins with searching and interviewing and includes hiring, training, coaching, and performance reviewing. If handled correctly, it should actually be a blessing to the organization and the employee. If you keep these two perspectives in mind, process and blessing, you will more likely do the right things with the right heart throughout this process.

Appropriate reasons to dismiss someone include these:

  • Performance, work habits, and relationship conflicts AFTER appropriate corrective action proves fruitless.
  • Not aligning with the core values of the organization.
  • Dishonesty or other immoral behavior, which could be grounds for immediate dismissal, especially if covered in your personnel policies.
  • Insubordination, or not following the directives of the supervisor or others in authority over the employee.
  • Mismatch in job fit with the strengths and competence of the employee after growth efforts have proven inadequate and determining that modifying the position or moving the employee to another position would be harmful to the organization.

Here are the steps that I believe we must take as Christians before, during, and after we dismiss any employee. These apply to all cases other than immediate firing offenses, such as dishonesty, stealing, or other immoral behavior.

  1. Don’t go it alone. Pray continuously for the employee, yourself, and the situation. And always have a mentor, coach, or trusted group of advisors that you can tap into for counsel on employee issues.
  1. Follow a good process. Make sure there is an adequate performance review process in place. If not, put one in place and initiate a performance review immediately with the employee. See my article on this topic called Gospel-Centered Performance Reviews.
  1. Clarify the issue needing correcting, whether performance or alignment, engaging the employee with give and take conversation in order to create complete clarity on the issue. Understand any barriers to performance, and gain agreement on the “gap” between where the employee is and where they need to be.
  1. Provide appropriate and adequate support for growth and change, which could include classes and seminars, books, coaching, feedback, and time.
  1. Explore the possibility of modifying the position or moving the person to another position to better align with the person’s strengths and passions, if that is possible without too negatively impacting the organization.
  1. Clearly communicate the possibility of dismissal.
    1. Here is where a heart-to-heart discussion about job fit and God’s best for both the employee and the organization must be included.
    2. I absolutely believe that if the person isn’t right for the position and/or the organization, then we are LOVING them well and HONORING God by making the separation.
  1. Stay the course. If the behavior or performance still doesn’t change adequately in the agreed time frame, then the employee has made the decision for you, in effect.
  1. Follow up with the employee regularly to give whatever support and encouragement you can. And here is the extra mile that you can choose to travel: contact the spouse to express sympathy, support, and prayer. There will typically be more hard feelings with the spouse than the employee, and as a Christians we are commanded in Matt 5:23-24 to be reconciled to a brother (or sister) who has something against us. And in Mk 9 and 1Th 5 we are commanded to be at peace with each other.

No one said that management would be easy! But almost all of us do have to dismiss someone. Let’s commit before God to following a process that is truly loving to the individual and others and is truly honoring to God.

I would be glad to talk with you about your specific employee situation.


© 2014, John Purcell and Transform, LLC

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