Letting Go and Being Let Go – Part 1

Letting go and Being Let go – A tale of two humans – Part 1
October 18, 2018
November 19, 2018


As I write this, I am reminded of a moment from about ten years ago – my partner at the time had to “fire/ let go” of an employee in his organization. It was a small organization and there was only one casualty, yet I clearly recall him saying, that it was one of the hardest things he had ever done. While feeling for him, I never quite grasped the extent of his internal struggle, until recently – mostly because I regularly work with people, who have the need to fire others. On the other hand, I have worked with an equal number of people, who have been let go, or are fearful of being let go.

Letting go and Being Let go, is part and parcel of Corporate life. I also believe that intelligence, past success and track-record of the individual has little to do with the actual decision of the organization. Quite often, redundancies are tactical or strategic activities, undertaken by an organization based on immediate financial demands of the organization. Going forward, we can be certain that automation and technological advances, will be at cause for many more mass redundancies. The thing about redundancies is that – It’s rarely personal.

On the flip side however and at an individual level, it is deeply personal – both for the person deciding/ relaying the news to the employee/s in question, and the employee/s themselves.

Let’s look at the internal struggles of both sides and some strategies on coping with the situation.

First the decision makers/ bearers of bad news:

For this human, it is more than anything else – an ethical and moral dilemma. They feel a deep burden of responsibility as they think about the negative impacts their actions could have on the lives of the people, they would impact. The more empathetic and values driven they are, the greater the internal struggle.

As an example, a leader who always thought of himself as empathetic and compassionate, suddenly feels challenged because firing people never feels like an empathetic or compassionate act.

Questions that generally arise from their internal struggle are:

  1. What are the consequences, of taking away the livelihoods of people? Both for me, and for them?
  2. Do I have the ethical and moral right to act in this manner?
  3. Am I making the right decision?
  4. What if I am wrong?
  5. Will I have to deal with “karmic” repercussions for my actions?

The reality of life is that, in the short term we can never know if a certain action is good or bad for any of the parties involved, even though outwardly it may seem obviously “bad” for one. I know many people, who say that being let go by their company, was one of the best things that happened to them. Even though when it happened, it felt bad. (More on this in Part 2)

If you have ever felt like  “I need to let people go – How can I ever recover from this?!” ,

 here are a few strategies to cope:  

  1. Acknowledge that this is a difficult process, both for you and for the employees, instead of arguing your way out by labeling it right or wrong.
  2. Create emotional support structures for yourself – within and without the organization. (A Coach is a great idea)
  3. Recognize your responsibility both towards the employees, but also towards the organization that you work for. What does your role (from a work standpoint) require you to do?
  4. Use your top values to manage the process – Example if compassion is important, then what can you do to make this process, as soft and loving towards those being made redundant? Can you do something to prepare them? Can you give them post support – training, headhunter help, coaching?
  5. Be open to the possibility – that for some of your fired employees, this could be the best thing that could happen to them. (I would refrain from telling this to them at the time though

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