Having an employee leave or letting an employee go, in my experience as a manager, is one of the worst feelings. What makes these times even worse is if it comes as a surprise to either the manager or employee. To avoid such a surprise I have a guideline for myself, to which I honor for all of my employees.

If I need to let an employee go, it will never come as a surprise to that employee. I will give them plenty of notice, and together, we’ll work to make termination unnecessary.

Vice versa, for any employee who is considering leaving, I ask that they don’t let it come as a surprise to me. I ask that they give me plenty of notice and work with me to make leaving unnecessary.

The first part of this guideline, giving an employee plenty of notice before having to let them go, is entirely within my control. If an employees’ performance or behavior is trending towards termination I will give them a heads-up. In doing so, I’m direct and honest as well as empathetic and understanding of their side.

It’s not a fun conversation but it’s better than a conversation that requires letting someone go. It’s a conversation that, while difficult, is the responsibility of any responsible manager. After which, if termination become necessary, no one should be surprised.

The second part of this guideline, receiving plenty of notice from an employee before they leave, is the tricky part. Getting a heads-up from an employee generally means there is trust and open communication between the manager and employee. Problem is, most employees leave their managers, not their companies. You’ll never receive a heads-up from an employee considering leaving, thus giving you time to correct any problems and prevent them from leaving, unless they trust you to begin with.

I’m not a perfect manager however I make it known that I truly care about my team and their success. I do so by being honest with them, both in praise and feedback. I do so with my behavior, providing clarity and direction while lending a hand where possible.

The most important part of my job is to help my team. If I communicate well enough, if I work smart enough, and if I earn the trust of my employees, knowing I won’t surprise them, won’t come as a surprise. And if I’m lucky enough, they won’t surprise me either.

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