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Sadly, there will be times when we have to fire people. This is always unpleasant for everyone, but less bad than having a poor performer bringing the team down (or worse, overburdening your best performer to the point where they leave).

The most important thing to hold in mind is that the decision to fire someone is not a judgement of someone's character (except, of course, in clear cases of negligence or fraud). Nor is it a judgement on their worth as a person. It is only a judgement on their work for the specific role we hired them to do at this specific company.

There are lots of reasons why someone isn't performing. Perhaps you hired them into the wrong role. Or perhaps they didn't gel with the team. Or perhaps their values didn't align with the company’s. Or perhaps the company scaled beyond their talents. All of these are perfectly valid reasons to part ways and don't represent a moral failing.

It is quite possible that whoever you are firing is going to go on and do great work for another company. Indeed, it is quite possible that a couple of years down the road, they view being fired as one of the best things that happened to them (although usually this point falls flat at the time).

No surprises

By the time you fire someone, it should be pretty clear to everyone that things aren't working out. For a start, your report will have been on a PIP for at least a few weeks. If you start firing people out of the blue, then everyone else wonders who's next, they get scared, and their performance suffers.

Notify your manager and then Clearbit’s People Ops team. They will take you through the process and help you set up a meeting with everyone who needs to attend.

What to say

Our People Ops team will give you a script to run through with your report. Here is an example of what this will look like. This will include the benefits we offer, their severance, and next steps. It's important to remember that this meeting is about them, not you. Don't talk about how it's such a hard day for youβ€”we can assure you it's worse for them.

Exit interview

In most cases, we run an exit interview with anyone who leaves the company, whether or not their exit is of their own volition. This is because these interviews can glean important information on steps the company could take to improve.


"I find exit interviews to be chock-full of insights on what departing employees really think about the company. They are typically eager to share their views. Not all opinions are agreeable. Some are misperceptions. But even misperceptions inform us how poorly we did in communicating context that led to information asymmetry.

The post-exit interview is often a missed opportunity to strengthen trust. I use these opportunities to share desensitized feedback with the org, acknowledging what we heard, and then mount a campaign to address our failures and deliver on our promise."

β€” Ye Cheng, VP of Engineering at Paciolan

Our People Ops team will run this interview and share the results with you.