If you hold an executive position, the hardest aspect of your job may be having to terminate someone’s employment. And the more responsibility that person has, the more complex saying “you’re fired” can be.
It can take a long time to replace an employee who has a lot of skills and experience. Recruiting the right replacement often requires communication deep within the fired employee’s professional and social world.
In a new article published with the Harvard Business Review, an executive recruiter warns that discretion is both essential and challenging.
Don’t telegraph your next move
Placing an important employee causes enough efficiency problem for a company. It can get worse if the firing wasn’t kept secret.
If your competitors hear of the impending change, they can spread rumors that there’s chaos as your company “circles the drain.” This may discourage candidates who have other options from considering your company, or even draw away current staff.
Sometimes, the executive about to be terminated can lose interest in their job or create chaos as they think more about their legacy than your company’s future.
Silence is golden
Recruiter Adam Dean acknowledges nondisclosure agreements are misused and overused, but for the limited purpose of an executive search it’s hard to make them too enforceable or too comprehensive.
NDAs should include the name of the person leaving, their salary, and even your own company’s identity.
Things may get weird
You may find yourself at a barbeque talking with the departing employee, their spouse or their children about future events that you know won’t happen.
Replacement candidates, their references, key players in your company and members of any search committee are all likely to know each other and have mutual acquaintances.
Whether face to face or on social media, anyone might tip off the departing employee, their actual or social media friends, their family, a kid’s school teacher or any number of other people.
The author of the Harvard article often uses hotel conference centers for meetings in which everyone uses fake names and talks with front desk staff using the name of a fictional company.