LWS Pixel

by Julia Paulus (referencing Judy Ryan and LifeWork Systems) SBM, March 2010

Getting fired is obviously difficult for an employee. But firing someone is also hard for owners and managers – probably one of the hardest things they ever have to do. This is especially true in small businesses, where the owners know their employees well.

Judy Ryan, owner of LifeWork Systems, says it’s important to communicate effectively during the termination, which can keep the process calmer.

“The greatest emotional support you can provide yourself and others is to allow space for expressions of discouragement while insisting upon mutual respect along the way,” says Ryan. “You cannot go too slow in this process. Make a commitment to stay in communication for the entire time needed to work through crucial final discussions and understanding. If emotions escalate, take time to breathe, slow down, relax and even stop talking if needed, allowing for silence and, in some cases, short breaks in the conversation, agreeing to resume when emotions stabilize.

Ryan says that when an owner fires an employee, he or she must avoid being reactive or responding to reactivity. She suggests using four characteristics to keep the conversation on track and emotions to a minimum:


“Be straightforward in telling your employee exactly what worked, what didn’t and why.”


“Make sure to temper your honesty with genuine caring. The experience of this employee has not been exclusively negative or disappointing. He or she has many admirable and important qualities and has contributed value to you and your business. As a business owner, if you are unable to identify this employee’s assets and gifts or have a fear of acknowledging them during termination, you will not be openly caring, which is a big mistake many employers make. Don’t be afraid to fully express both your appreciation and your reasons for terminating them.”


“Provide information that this staff member is open to receive.”


“After determining if they are open to hear your feedback, clarify what occurred and offer suggestions designed to help him or her move forward with greater success in future jobs. In other words, your goal should be to support harmony between the two of you as well as within the employee so as to empower and strengthen you both.”

Judy Ryan (judy@LifeworkSystems.com), human systems specialist, is owner of LifeWork Systems. Her mission is to help people create lives they love. She can be reached at 314-239-4727.

As published in St. Louis Small Business Monthly, March 2010