Bringing a bad news to a consultant

You want to manage projects? Ending contracts with nice people is part of the job!

UntitledYou can read whatever books you want, you can follow whatever HR course you can, ending a contract with a nice person is not easy (same goes for firing people, breaking a bad news, etc.).

The theory says that it’s best to have a third person in the room, that the news should be broken in the morning preferably, to find humane ways to tell the truth upfront, meeting in a neutral location, keeping it clear, describe what comes next etc.

Practically, there are mainly three points I would emphasize …

Objectivity is key. For this first point I hesitated between objectivity and preparedness. But both go hand in hand. First keep aside he is a good guy, your relationship will inevitably suffer. Align what was the objectives and what was achieved. Describe quantitatively how objectives were achieved. Leave room for discussion on how you measure achievements and how the other person would perceive his achievements – but in the end you are supposed to know your business and the reasons why you stop this contract. Just be sure to put objectivity behind your decision. Strive to keep the atmosphere businesslike and free of emotion. But also listen to the other party.

“What should you do in my shoes?” or let him come with alternative solutions. Both approaches will put some lights on “reasons” that might not be directly on the table but played a (maybe minor) role nonetheless. Shedding light on these aspects might make people realize they personally are not to blame (if it’s the case) but other factors exist. On top, they’re more likely to adhere to what the solution is.

Have a plan for the future. After hearing bad news, people might find it hard to believe that the you care about them. But you should be prepared to give employees tips on how to avoid the problem in the future (if it’s appropriate). It’s easier for consultants as by definition they should not stay in the same job for long periods of time – but knowing your cv is kept in the database for specific jobs can be interesting in the long term. Also knowing what to improve for the next job assignment can be useful. Don’t overdo this however – giving advices for the future when you just brought bad news might look like being obnoxious (rightfully).

What are your thought on firing someone?

Photo credits: Untitled by Danny Guy, on Flickr (licence CC-by-nc-nd)

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