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November 02, 2011

HR: How to break up with employees

To Kim N.: I’m sorry you were dismissed with anger and haste. To David S.: I wish I’d told you that even though you worked with us just 89 days, I don’t regret that we gave it a try. To Sam C.: I apologize for sending a signal that we didn’t value every minute you were employed by us. To David W.: I wish we’d thrown you a going-away party after you resigned, given all that you contributed to our business. To countless others: I was a coward for having someone else deliver the news of your termination, and I wish I’d met with you directly before we parted ways.

After employingand saying farewell tohundreds of people over the past two decades, my list of apologies could go on forever. But one thing is certain: I never want to add anyone to this list again. And if you’re in any type of leadership position, you should keep your apology list short, too.

For most of my life as an entrepreneur I got angry when employees resigned. I felt betrayed, broken up with. I seethed about losing a colleague who knew my complete strategy, my darkest fears, and my many weaknesses. How could they just take off, cast my company and me aside, and think about some new professional relationship to make work-love to?

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