A former Google and Apple exec shares the tactic she uses to feel better about having to let someone go


upset coworker

Francisco Osorio/Flickr

Never go in with the mentality that they suck.

While terminating someone's employment is totally permissible in most organizations, it can seem just as inhumane as leaving a big red mark on their cheek.


Kim Scott is all too familiar with this issue. She's a former Apple and Google exec and CEO coach who's worked with former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and Dropbox CEO Drew Houston.

Scott now runs her own company, Radical Candor; she recently published a book by the same name, in which she offers readers a wealth of management lessons drawn from her own experience.

"I don't know anyone who doesn't wake up with an upset stomach on a day you have to fire somebody," Scott told Business Insider when she visited our office in March.

That said, "the most important thing never to do when firing someone is to go in with the mentality that you're firing them because they suck."


Obviously, no one wants to hear that they're a horrible employee. But just as important, you don't want to tell someone that they're a horrible employee. So don't.

"Go in with a mentality that this is a great person, this is a great job, but this is a terrible job for that person," Scott said.

She went on: "One thing that I have found really helpful is to go into the conversation with a sense of compassion - to think about a job that I've sucked at, to think about a job that I've hated, and what a relief it was not to be doing that job anymore."

Scott offered another - somewhat surprising - tip to make the process easier on everyone.

"I try to imagine a job where this person would really flourish. And, in fact, if I can, I'll even make an introduction to that person to help them find a job where they can really be great."


Scott's tips go back to the heart of radical candor, a leadership style based on challenging your employees directly while at the same time caring for them personally. You're not hiding the fact that you're firing them, but you're doing it like a human being.

One thing to avoid when letting someone go? Scott said: "This is not the moment to be giving tons and tons and tons of feedback. Because that makes the conversation backward-looking. You want to get the person and yourself moving forward to a better place."

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