Dealing with Leadership Anxiety – Hiring and Firing Team Members

As a leader, you get to lead your team. You get to make the final decisions on hiring and firing team members, as well as the management of that team. Your success and your progress is largely based on your decisions in these areas.

It’s an exciting part of your work. It can also create some anxiety.

When it comes to hiring and firing team members, give some consideration to these points:

Figure out your expectations for this role to gain the highest success and productivity.

For most leaders who are hiring and firing for their team, the focus is building a job description. That’s a great step, but you need to complete another step if you want to see a successful hire. A job description lists the role and responsibilities for the position, but it doesn’t include the personality and characteristics you need to see in this role.

Figure out what kind of personality would be a good balance in relation to your team and for you in particular. You also want to think about the qualities you want for this new person to bring to your team. Do you need someone who has a background in a particular area, or should they have some intangible qualities that will add to your team.

Clarity on Expectations

It’s important for you to figure out how you want this new member to fit in and then to make a significant contribution. Writing out a timeline with goals and expectations listed out is a good strategy. Once you make the hire, consulting with your new team member on the timeline and your expectations will provide a sense of security and it will also give everyone a clear plan to follow to gain maximum success

Let your candidates do the talking.

One of the biggest mistakes a leader makes is telling candidates about the job and the organization, but fails to let the candidates speak about themselves. It is critically important to find out as much as possible about your qualified candidates. The best way in getting to know them well is ask questions which provide the opportunity for them to give detailed answers.

Before you interview your candidates, write out open-ended questions. Give the candidates questions which allow them to explain their answers. Give them the opportunity to reveal their experience, passions, and life goals. Let them talk about how they could provide positive impact for your team.

Don’t be in a hurry.

Don’t fall into the temptation that you found your best candidate right away. Also, don’t just hire the first “qualified” candidate. It’s easy to get caught up into the great qualities in a candidate, but you still need to do some due diligence. Check references. Complete your research on LinkedIn and other social media areas. If you have mutual acquaintances or friends, you might want to make some calls.

When you do your research, ask applicable questions to your “short-list” candidates – the candidates you think are your best candidates. It’s really important to let your candidates tell you how they made a difference at the various places they’ve worked.
Lastly, ask for others to complete interviews and to talk to your candidates. You may ask other team members to assist, and you may want to ask some of your most trusted advisors and friends to help out in this process. Give them some ideas of what to ask and to dive deeper into the candidates’ ideas and experiences.

It’s Not an Exact Science

As much as we try to lead and grow a team through hiring and firing, we may face some trouble. Some people just don’t fit within your team or with your corporate culture. There are a lot of possible things that can come up. Someone might be combative and uncooperative, or they are too passive and timid. You might find that the experience and skills listed on the resume doesn’t live up to your expectations. Or they may be unable to stay on pace with you and the rest of the team. Regardless of the reasons, you are aware that there are problems.

Here are some key points to manage the difficult situation of dismissing a team member:

Complete your due diligence.

There may be other matters happening behind the strained situation with your team member. Marital or relationship trouble, financial difficulties, family issues, or other unrelated things are always a possibility. Or it may be a matter between the team member and another team member that could be resolved with some help. It’s worth making the effort to see if there is something that can be done to fix the situation and to bring some positive resolution.


Sit down and meet with the team member to discuss the negative situation. Be honest about what’s going on. As you did with the interview process, take the time and the patience to let the team member talk and explain what’s going on. Be ready to present some options and solutions to resolve the situation that allows the team member to be a part of the solution.

Avoid using “being” verbs when you describe the negative matters, such as “You are . . .” and focus on “action” verbs to talk what’s going on. You might try asking, for example: “You reacted strongly in the meeting yesterday,” versus, “You really are an angry person in the meetings.” Give the team member the opportunity to be a part of the solution.

If you have to make the tough decision, be decisive.

No one wants a bad situation. For the leader, it may be tougher to deal with the inevitable hiring and firing decisions than it is to make it happen. The tendency for the leader is to try to find a better solution. However, it comes to a point where there is no possible positive outcome for the team member to stay. Therefore, it’s better to make that decision and to make the process straightforward with everyone’s dignity intact in the end.

The Meeting

When it comes to “the meeting,” don’t get into a major discussion over details and matters. Make the decision clear and concise, and then take the steps to make the departure as quickly and smoothly as possible. Do not allow the team member to talk to other members unless the matter involves collection of assets, such as: computers, phones, credit cards, keys, etc. Escort the team member through the process and be respectful. It’s hard enough for everyone involved.  Keeping things brief will be a better solution than trying to explain your decision.

Don’t beat yourself up.

For those situations where someone is dismissed, it’s the best situation for everyone concerned. Rarely is there a situation where the dismissed team member was happy in that situation. They needed to leave and the organization needed to let them go. They didn’t want to be fired, but they knew that they weren’t going to stay for long.

Conversely, the organization was dealing with a toxic situation which was distracting from the work that needed to be done. With that in mind, it was a necessary decision that needed to happen.

You’re okay.

Don’t think of yourself as being a bad person. Certainly the dismissed team member may hold some hard feelings. That’s not your burden to carry. If you did your best to resolve the situation and there are no solutions left, you need to move on. If you feel that an apology is in order, that’s up to you. However, your team and your organization need you to continue leading and to take the next steps for growth and success.

These decisions aren’t easy, that’s for sure. However, your responsibility is for the health and success of your organization, which your team members are a large part of that area. Commit to making the processes of hiring and firing as efficient, professional and smooth as possible.

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