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How to Fire a Developer Without Burning Bridges

If I fire a developer, how easy will it be for me to replace him/her?
Table of content:

Mark is a good guy. Mark has built his company on firm handshakes and pure determination. Mark has a lush moustache, a tucked in grid pattern shirt and a proud bald spot in the back of the head. Mark loves his job, but hates days like these. Today is the day when he fires a team member. So how does Mark feel? He's nervous. Good thing Mark follows our little checklist on how to fire a developer without burning bridges:

1. Prepare for the conversation

Do:

Before initiating the conversation, gather all relevant documentation, including the developer's contract, performance evaluations, and any other pertinent information. Consider the reasons for parting ways and be prepared to explain them clearly and professionally. You can do it!

  • Consider the reasons: Clearly articulate the reasons for parting ways, ensuring they are business-related and not personal.
  • Practice your communication: Rehearse the conversation to deliver the news clearly, professionally, and empathetically.

Don’t:

– You're fired! FIRED! Dave? Look at me. You are ****fired. Dave, I'm so sorry, but you're fired... you're fire... Zoom voice: Recording started-oh hi Dave! What's up, how's it going?

– Um, good, and you Mark?

2. Choose an appropriate setting

Do:

Schedule a private and face-to-face meeting to discuss the matter. Avoid breaking the news via email or phone call, as this can come across as impersonal and disrespectful. Choose a neutral location where you can have an uninterrupted conversation.

  • Find a neutral location: Choose a quiet, private space where you can have an uninterrupted conversation. Note that this point stands even when firing a remote developer – you don’t want to make the call from a busy, noise place.
  • Ensure confidentiality: Respect the privacy of both the developer and the company.

Don’t:

Dave, I’m here with John, Mary, Eddy, Jeremy, Dianna, Doug and Greg from cleaning. Say hello!

– H-hello?

3. Start with Empathy and Acknowledgement

Do:

Begin the conversation by acknowledging the developer's contributions to the company and expressing gratitude for their efforts. Show empathy and understanding for the situation and avoid making accusatory or personal statements.

  • Express gratitude: Acknowledge the developer's contributions and express appreciation for their efforts.
  • Show empathy: Understand the situation from the developer's perspective and avoid making accusatory or personal remarks.

Don’t:

– See, David, we're all sooo grateful for all the checks notes code you've written – great code! Thank you for that! Don't get me wrong, I'm not mad at all...

– Are you firing me?

– No! I mean*,* yeah, kinda... goddamit, Dave let me speak!

4. Explain the reasons clearly and honestly

Do:

Clearly and concisely explain the reasons for the decision to part ways. Be honest and upfront, but avoid going into unnecessary details or making hurtful remarks. Focus on the business-related reasons behind the decision.

  • Be upfront and honest: Explain the reasons for the decision without going into unnecessary details.
  • Focus on business reasons: Keep the explanation focused on business-related factors, avoiding personal attacks or subjective opinions.

Don’t:

– Look, I'm not gonna go into unnecessary details here, but you know, when two people – say friends, they share good -even great- memories together, but there comes a moment when they just don't feel the same, you know? They, like, LACK connection… There's no spark, there's no chemistry, you get what I'm saying?

– So you are firing me?

– Gosh why this gotta be so difficult...

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5. Offer a fair severance package

Do:

Discuss the severance package in a respectful and transparent manner. Ensure that the package complies with all legal and contractual obligations. Consider offering additional benefits, such as outplacement services or recommendations to potential employers.

  • Negotiate a mutually agreeable package: Discuss the severance package in a transparent and respectful manner.
  • Comply with legal obligations: Ensure the severance package complies with all legal and contractual requirements.

Don’t:

– Dave, I know your contract doesn’t state anything about it, but can you stay for a couple more weeks until we find a good developer? Please? I can’t pay you for that though…

6. Provide a clear timeline and next steps

Do:

Outline a clear timeline for the developer's departure and the transition of their work. Provide guidance on handing over responsibilities, accessing company resources, and returning any company property.

  • Outline a transition plan: Clearly define the timeline for the developer's departure and the handover of their responsibilities.
  • Provide guidance on handover: Offer specific instructions on transferring work, accessing resources, and returning company property.

Don’t:

– Just email me all that Internet files you’ve made, okay? Can you do it today?

7. Seek feedback and address concerns

Do:

Give the developer an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback. Listen actively and address their concerns with professionalism and empathy.

  • Listen actively: Listen attentively to their feedback without interrupting or dismissing their concerns.
  • Address concerns with empathy: Respond to their concerns empathetically and offer solutions or clarifications when appropriate.

Don’t:

– Dave, remember – we're a family here, so if you ever, and I mean ever need anything – just ask away!

– Yeah, can I-

– Beep-beep, unstable connection

– Oh, whatever…

8. Offer a positive reference

Do:

Unless there are serious misconduct or performance issues, offer to provide a positive reference for the developer. This gesture demonstrates goodwill and can help them secure future employment opportunities.

  • Provide a positive recommendation: Unless there are serious issues, offer to provide a positive reference.
  • Highlight their strengths: Emphasize their positive qualities, skills, and accomplishments in the reference.

Don’t:

lights up a cigarette You know where I started? I've worked at a Target! At a goddamn Target, Dave! Look at me now! I'm sure they're hiring...

Dave hangs up.

Mark stares in the camera, contemplating his life decisions.

Why the hell does he even need a dev team in a gardening company?

Parting ways with a developer can be a challenging experience, but by following these guidelines and approaching the situation with tact, professionalism, and empathy, you can minimize negative impacts and maintain positive relationships for the future. Remember, maintaining a strong reputation and fostering positive relationships within the industry is crucial for long-term success.

And if you want to avoid firing developers altogether, try checking our pool of vetted devs – at Match.dev we've made a point of including multiple, comprehensive tests in our developer selection process to make sure that the relationship with your new dev is long and prosperous. As a result, you get a full-fledged team member who seamlessly integrates into your project management ecosystem, works in line with your product strategy and adapts to your business philosophy.

Mark is a good guy. But don't be like Mark.

team@match.dev

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