When you work in ministry, it’s easy to feel like your co-workers are your best friends… which is why firing employees starts to feel a bit crooked.
We assure you, you are not inherently wrong for having to let someone go, even a good person. Here are three key tips to help you out when the time comes.
1. Approach the conversation with confidence.
While this person has grown to become a good friend of yours (and they may have even entered the position with an existing relationship with you) your responsibilities within your ministry require you to treat the relationship as a work relationship primarily. You have the right and responsibility to make these difficult decisions with care. Once you’ve decided someone needs to go, act with confidence. Your hesitation will only confuse them.
Before you decide, question your own motives. Rely on prayerful discernment. Thoughtfully consider your decision until you gain a sense of peace about the consequences. This process will give you something to have confidence in, beyond your opinions and premonition. Once you have made the decision, you need to execute a plan promptly. You’ll need to deliver this difficult message with clarity, which is only possible if you yourself understand with peace the exact reasons for the termination.
2. Deliver the message with sensitivity.
Keep in mind, your goal here is to maintain mutual respect with this employee and friend. One way to respect this person is to allow them to see the conversation coming. The act of firing should not feel like a blindside. Be kind enough to tell the truth throughout the process, even if the friend in you fears hurting them. The pain of transparency will often save a deeper pain of betrayal when this person looks back on their time working with you. Revealing the truth is what allows both parties to walk away with closure.
3. Walk away on good terms.
The key to remember here is grace. You can communicate grace in two clear ways. First, you’ll need to deliver these delicate messages with kindness. Your speech during this conversation is a balancing act and a social skill. If your position requires you to fire employees regularly, you will get better at it. Be patient and gracious even with yourself as you improve in this. The second clear way to demonstrate grace is to offer a generous separation agreement. This will communicate that you are invested in this employee’s well-being, and you will care for them despite any reasons for letting them go.
Finally, give them space. Your friendship will change. Depending on the relationship you had, it may just need to heal. Allow this person to process it all. This is where thoughtful confidence will come in handy. You should have delivered enough clarity for yourself and this former employee that both of you can see that the Lord is working in this change. Once you have followed through with all that is in your power, the only thing you can do is back away in confidence.
At the end of the day, one piece of advice will prepare you to walk away on good terms with this person and with yourself: if you have done everything in your power to maintain peace with this person for the sake of ministry, and they have a poor reaction, you are not necessarily responsible or at fault.
Prepare your heart for the fact that relationships may change for the worse. That is why it is vital that you have full confidence in your decision to fire this person. Honoring the ministry should be worth your personal friendships if it comes down to losing them. This is the difficult part about working for a cause worth fighting for. It may cost you, but oh, it is worth it.