How To Fire A Friend, Part 2: Subtracting For Growth


In How to Fire a Friend, Part 1, we established ground rules for firing with truth and grace, especially when the person you’re firing is a close friend.  In Part 2, we’re going to focus on how you deal specifically with situations where performance and attitude are an issue.

In any situation when you’re faced with evaluating employee performance and potentially firing someone, always remember that it’s His Church and you are stewarding it.  

Being a leader is difficult, and you are sometimes required to make difficult decisions for the health of the church and for effective and fruitful ministry.  Always act with the highest degree of grace and integrity, striving to be a good steward of the employees and relationships entrusted to you.

Don’t put off dealing with an employee who is under-performing or displaying a poor attitude or character issue.  When you delay dealing with staff members who are failing the CAP check (see How to Fire a Friend, Part 1) you are allowing them to destroy morale and eventually lower the excellence and moral compass of the entire church or organization. Deal with issues mercifully but swiftly.

It’s helpful to use gardening as an analogy when thinking about firing.  In horticulture, pruning is necessary to remove the resource drainers in order to redirect energy and resources to the fruit-bearing branches. It’s the same in a church or organization. Keep in mind that the fruit-bearing capacity of your team directly correlates to your CAP check as a leader.

Here are three areas to consider when subtracting for growth:

1. Organizational Pruning – Is your church doing too much to be effective? Perhaps your employees are having performance or attitude issues because the church is doing too much and there is too much on their plate. Consider narrowing your efforts to what’s most important and focusing on what you do really well. For more on getting the most out of your team, read this insight.

2. Responsibility Pruning – Have you set your staff members up for success or failure? Are you really measuring what they are doing? Are they doing too much? Most leaders underestimate how much time assigned tasks take. Ensure that your expectations are reasonable and communicated clearly. Ask for feedback if you sense your church staff members feel overwhelmed. Perhaps their poor performance correlates with having too much on their plate.

2. Function Pruning – If the church isn’t doing too much, and the employee isn’t doing too much but truly underperforming, this is the stage where the employee is removed from their current position. As we’ve stressed, this should be handled with extreme care.

Once you’ve done the pruning that needs to happen, and it’s still apparent someone needs to be let go, here are the steps to go about it wisely:

Step 1: Training

First and foremost, set clear expectations with the employee who is underperforming.  Meet with them; go over their job description (if there was one) and the original expectations for the role. If there isn’t a job description, write one. Make every attempt to get the employee the training or clarity they need to be successful. This may include books, conferences, training recommendations, and/or reduced or changed responsibilities. It may also include you taking the time to re-write job descriptions and even look at your overall organizational chart. You may find that realistic expectations and the communication of those were not as clear as you think. If this is the problem, check out these 3 No-Nonsense Tips For Communicating With Clarity. Set and communicate achievable goals that are agreed upon with dates and follow up. If it becomes clear that they cannot perform or will not adjust their attitude, move to the next step.

At this point in the process, the topic of firing shouldn’t be included in the discussion.

Step 2: Transfer

Sometimes an employee that is failing the CAP check is just waiting to be rescued. It’s possible that they are committed and faithful yet are in over their head. Sometimes their sense of responsibility gets in the way of asking for help. For others, a change of scenery, a leader with a different style, or a job description that better fits their passions and skills may set them up for long-term success. Before terminating an employee, try to move them to a different area. Check out our post on how to Develop & Implement Change On Your Church Staff. This is not possible in all situations, especially if the issue is one of character or there are no other openings on your staff.  If this is the case, it’s time to move to the next step.  

Step 3: Terminate

This is not the fun part, but when done with dignity, respect, and mercy, terminating someone can actually be a catalyst of positive change in both the employee and the church. It is a morale killer to tolerate an employee who is consistently under-performing, has a negative attitude, or who has a breach of character. It’s the leaders responsibility to position the organization for growth and pruning is a difficult but essential part of that process.

What steps can you take today to subtract for growth?

If you liked this article, read How to Fire Someone Gracefully.