Firing people is extremely difficult, especially if you’ve never done it before. But it’s made infinitely harder and causes significantly more damage if you delay it. When you know someone isn’t working out (for whatever reason), you need to let them go. For startups it’s a very difficult pill to swallow. Each person on a small team is insanely important and has to pull a huge amount of weight. If one person isn’t pulling their weight it can drag the entire team, project and business down the toilet.
So the best thing you can do is act quickly.
Firing people is emotional and stressful. You worry about how they’ll respond and what they’ll do next. You worry about whether they’ll come back to poison the team against you. And you worry about what the remaining team will think. How will firing someone impact their confidence in your startup and you? Will other people jump ship because they think the startup is failing, or because they think we treated the ex-employee unfairly?
Most of the time these worries are unfounded. If you wait too long and let a bad situation drag out, it can have a ripple effect after you let the person go, but if you do it quickly and decisively, everyone moves on fairly well. In fact, your team will probably appreciate the move (even if it’s not expressed publicly) because it tightens up and solidifies the core team. The person that was let go may be shocked or disappointed (and will likely be upset in the moment), but shortly thereafter I’ve seen many people who realize that the job and/or company wasn’t the right fit. Oftentimes people will move on to bigger and better things, and be extremely successful in other environments, situations and roles. And even if the worries do have some merit, you can’t keep “bad fits” in the company just to avoid other problems. That never works.
This is true of employees and co-founders. With co-founders the situation is even more complicated, but the rule still applies. If it’s not working you have to take action.
I know it’s tough. Firing people is unpleasant and awkward. And it can get heated – there are lots of emotions involved. But if you know it’s the right move, do it. And generally speaking if you’re trying to decide whether it’s the right thing to do but you’re on the fence — it’s the right thing to do. The fact that you’re on the fence means you have to take action. Don’t delay. Every single day that you delay is hurting your business.