How To Fire Your Best Friend


With many church’s budget planning ramping up in the fall, one of the realities of our current economy is downsizing. Whether you’re part of a large ministry or a small organization, church staff salaries and overhead generally take a big piece of the pie. Letting someone go, especially when it’s unwarranted by behavior, is never easy. In a recent FINS informal survey, readers were asked what they would do in regards to firing someone if in return, they landed their dream job as a result. 76% of readers said they'd take their dream job if their first task was to fire their direct report, and 72% said they'd take the job if they had to do all of the firing in the office. When the firing got personal, things changed. If the person had to fire their best friend, only 36% said they'd take the job.

The psychology behind this is simple: it’s more difficult to cause tension or create conflict to those with whom we’ve invested. As we get to know the people we work with, they become more human to us: we get to know their lives, their families, and sometimes their hopes and dreams.

What happens if you’re faced with letting a friend go? Here are some tips from FINS.

Is It Necessary?: Have you taken all the steps possible to help this person keep their position? If the problem is money, can you form a strategy to raise it? If the issue is performance, has the person had a chance to correct his or her missteps? Go the extra mile in your communication. If all else fails and thetermination is inevitable, be as objective and unbiased as possible. This may lessen the personal damage.

Act Quickly: More than likely, if this is something that’s been weighing on your mind, your friend will know. If you have to let them go, set up a specific time – the sooner the better. If you can, ask your elder board or deacons (or whoever would already and confidentially know about the situation) to pray for you during this time. Most experts say letting someone go early in the day is best.

Don’t Beat Around the Bush: This is a time to keep it simple. It is easy to want to add disclaimers or personal encouragement to soften the blow, but in the end, delivering the news quickly and clearly will be important in order to keep rising emotions at bay.

It’s Not Personal: The phrase “It’s not personal, it’s business,” is overused and never accurate. Firing someone, especially a friend, is personal. It’s okay to admit it’s difficult, but at the same time, keep your mind focused on the task at hand. Recognize and take confidence in your role as a leader. You can wear both hats: friend and supervisor – but it’s tough to wear them at the same time.

Can You Help?: Before meeting with the person you’re firing, find as much help as possible. Can you offer a severance, extra insurance coverage, or assistance in finding other positions and networking? You want you friend to succeed, and by offering as much help as possible when you let them go, you’ll let them know you’re still wanting to invest and care for them.

Give Some Space: Don’t place any unnecessary expectations on your relationship.  You’re not responsible for how this person reacts. He or she may be fine and want to continue as if nothing happened or they may want to change churches and never see you again. While the latter outcome is painful, it’s also very realistic. It’s your job to be open to understanding their disappointment, but don’t try and force them into maintaining the relationship. They may need time and space away from the situation.

Ultimately, the firing conversation should not be a surprise to the person being fired. Through establishing clear expectations, conducting effective review processes, and maintaining open lines of communication, team members should know exactly where they stand with their boss. If not, check your practices as a leader and be sure you’re equipping your team effectively.

Have you ever had to fire your best friend?