Hi All!  Robert Whiteside here.

The need to occasionally let someone go from a job, to say “You’re fired” (or other precise words), comes to every leader.  It’s no easy task for most of us. I have used VDI in many spheres of my life, including during some of the most difficult conversations in the workplace.

Please see this useful article on how to deal with saying, “You’re fired.”


Documenting an employee’s job performance is an absolute necessity.  The old adage applies here: “If it’s not written, it didn’t happen.”  For many reasons, including litigious ones, job performance should be documented.

Once documented, the time will come to deliver the news to the employee.  This news, though tough to deliver, should nonetheless occur in the most dignified way possible.  This is where many tools from Verbal Defense & Influence (VDI) make the task as smooth and professional as possible.  Here are a few practical VDI tools:

  1. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity by being shown respect, regardless of circumstances. This is true, even if s/he is an extremely toxic employee with whom you have had much strife.  It’s useful to remember that, if natural respect isn’t present (due to very egregious behavior), one should still SHOW respect.  This foundational truth is useful for any interaction in life.
  2. It’s very difficult to tell someone, “You’re fired,” without it ruining their day. But at least entering into the conversation with the aim (intent) to leave them better than you found them, you can bring them to the very best closure possible.
  3. I am an enthusiastic proponent of the SHOWTIME! technique. It’s natural to be nervous delivering news like this.  We can, though, stack our blocks, breathe into the belly, manage our internal self-talk (making it supportive and positive), put on our professional face, and say to ourselves, “SHOWTIME!”   In this way, we can get to the very best version of ourselves, with the greatest emotional equilibrium, as we step into the conversation.
  4. We should also be always attentive to issues of safety. Keeping an exit available to us is important.  Important as well is paying attention to gateway behaviors from the terminated employee which hint that s/he is getting escalated, and having a pre-planned response if this begins to occur.  Remember the P.O.L.E. acronym.  It stands for Safety: Physical Safety, Organizational Safety, Legal Safety, and Emotional Safety.  All these areas should be a focus of concern during any termination.  Safety, before, last, and always.

These are just of few tools from the Verbal Defense & Influence (VDI) toolbox which can help a leader to navigate through having to terminate an employee.  No one likes to do this, but there ARE tools to help us remain the very best dignity-driven professional during these challenging interactions.


Robert Whiteside