5 min read

How To Fire a Senior Executive

By Lucy Palmer on 23-Aug-2021 17:10:43

Your senior executive team is at the heart of your organisation. They make the day-to-day decisions that decide the fate of the company. Unfortunately, sometimes they are not up to scratch. 

Even if an employee seemed perfect when you hired them, this doesn’t always last. If a senior executive isn’t providing the results you expected, you may want to get rid of them as soon as possible. 

 We’ve put together some important steps for firing someone in a top position:

Assess the Situation:

When firing an executive, the first thing you should do is pinpoint why you want to fire them. This is the case for any dismissal, but is particularly true when it comes to an important member of the team. Their absence can cause issues within the chain of command. It can also hurt staff morale if the employee is popular. Make sure your decision is rational, not emotional!

Firing someone might seem like a simple solution to deal with poor performance, but handling the consequences is not. Before making any rash decisions, ensure you have given the employee their best chance to succeed. Do not act without warning! 

It will work better for both sides if you attempt to understand their point of view. You should have tried corrective measures to see if they are able to learn from their mistakes.

On the bright side, many senior executives have been in charge of hiring and firing in the past. They have sat where you will be sitting. This means they can understand the situation and may be less defensive when it comes to leaving. 

There are plenty of valid reasons to part ways! If you are scaling up the company, it’s perfectly reasonable to replace the CEO with someone more equipped to work with a larger company. Hopefully, they will see this.

Consult Your Company Secretary:

Before starting the firing process, double-check any legal requirements. Your company likely already has provisions in place to deal with hiring and firing. If it gets messy, you want to make sure you are on the right side of the law. 

Check their employment contract, your company articles, and the specific legislation in your country (in the UK, this is mostly covered by the Companies Act of 2006). The process outlined in this article is only an overview. It’s always worth getting legal advice from a qualified professional when dealing with high-level business decisions.

Start the Three-Step Process:

-         Encourage Resignation from the Board:

Not all executives are members of the Board, but if they are, it’s the first thing you should deal with. They should be removed quickly and efficiently. The simplest way to do this is by encouraging the member to resign the position. 

If they refuse, they can be formally removed via a shareholder vote, but this should be a last resort. It is best for everyone if they give up their responsibilities of their own accord.

-         Reclaim their Shares

This is an easy part to forget when you first think about firing an executive. Make sure to look into what shares they have and what will happen to them. You do not want an executive you have fired to have a say in your company.

-         Termination of Employment

Termination of employment is the most similar to conventional firing. Unless they have broken the code of conduct, you will likely have to factor in a notice period. This might be inconvenient, but it helps you avoid an unfair dismissal claim. In an ideal scenario, you should have a replacement ready to step in.

Remember Personal Considerations:

When it comes to firing, the way you approach the issue can be just as important as your reasoning. Firing someone in the wrong way could come back to bite you. If an employee does not feel they are being respected, they are far more likely to cause issues. The ideal break-up is always a mutual understanding!

First of all, consider the timing and approach. Make sure to handle the situation delicately, in a way that you would like to be treated. Never fire anyone via email! 

Be specific when explaining why it isn’t working, as you hired this person for a reason. Just because they are not the right fit for your company, doesn’t make them unworthy of respect.

At the same time, don’t make the conversation longer than it needs to be. For the sake of clarity, you should ensure your explanation is efficient. 

Firing someone is never going to be a pleasant experience for either side. Recognising this will help you to streamline the discussion. This is also a good time to think about any financial offers or perks you might offer them upon leaving.

Learn from your Mistakes:

It’s natural to blame an employee if they don’t live up to your standards, but you should also assess your own practices. If you’ve hired someone who isn’t right for the company, you need to understand why they have fallen short. Remember: there is no such thing as a perfect executive, only the perfect executive for your organisation. Are you looking for the right things in your hiring process?

The expectations you have set out have not been met and there is always a reason for this. Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do about the issue, but it’s still worth looking into. Maybe you need to relook at how you have phrased these expectations. 

Go over the employment records to see if there are any improvements you could have made. It is also worth checking the training they have received, to ensure it was up-to-scratch. Firing an executive does not represent a ‘failure’, but a chance to learn. 

Communicate across the Company:

An important step to remember when firing someone is letting everyone know! The first group to tell is those who work directly with the manager. Their day-to-day experience at your company will change. This might be a difficult transition or a positive one. Either way, you should support them in adapting to the new way of work as quickly as possible.

If you have fired a senior executive without a replacement, others might need to step into their role. In most cases, the CEO will be heavily involved in the firing process and will take on some of their duties after it has happened. However, if it is the CEO that’s been dismissed, you will need to make other arrangements such as preparing an interim CEO. In any case, everyone should know how this will change their responsibilities.

This is also crucial for security purposes! You don’t want the executive to access the systems once they have left the company. If no one on the team knows the executive has been fired, they might be open about sensitive information. This is a clear risk to your company! Make sure everyone is told about the firing at the appropriate time.

With a Board portal like Convene, you can share the information quickly and efficiently. The software is designed to promote healthy communication across your business. 

Firing a senior executive is never easy, but our management solution can help make the process as painless as possible. From organising a meeting to review the executive team, to creating a GDPR-compliant audit trail, make sure you go about things the right way. Read our customer success stories or book a free trial today!

Lucy Palmer

Written by Lucy Palmer

Subscribe to the Convene Blog