The 7 Stages of Grief – when letting an employee go

letting an employee go

The 7 Stages of Grief – when letting an employee go

Letting an employee go can feel quite close to saying goodbye to a loved one. Sure, the feelings themselves are not the same, but you do go through a few very similar stages.

The 7 Stages of Grief of letting an employee go


1. Shock & Denial

It is never easy to let something go, especially when you were the one to take on the something. In this case, an employee. When you started the journey, you would have taken the time to source and research the perfect candidate. You would have spent time and often money breaking it down to the ideal top 5. The interviews, the conversations, the recruitment sign up, the teaching, the mentoring – all takes it out of you. And, when you realise you either made a mistake or missed something along the way, you can go into a state of shock and often denial.

2. Pain & Guilt

Paired with the shock, you will feel a real pain and possibly guilt. What did you do wrong? Why didn’t it work out? Is everyone looking at you now and blaming you? The guilt of failure, the pain of revaluating your abilities as a boss, a recruiter, and a person. Yes, it actually can go that deep at times.

3. Anger & Bargaining

This can quickly revert to anger where you turn it back on the employee. You blame them for not doing their job properly, for putting you in this position, even for deceiving you. You may even think about going back and not dismissing them. Perhaps you can rectify the situation and remedy what is clearly wrong. You think about approaching them and questioning the hell out of them, with the view to finding out what THEY did wrong, as this is better than taking the blame yourself.

4. Depression

As drastic as it sounds, you may even go through a bout of depression when letting an employee go, feeling worthless and a total failure. You will question your own ability again and not want to deal with any of the other employees, which can be tough on them.

5. The Upward Turn

However, on the other side of the darkness sits hope and here is where you can start to turn things around. Dealing and going through these stages is an important journey. And, believe it or not, every time you will go through them, you will find the transition easier and quicker each time. You will learn as you go.

6. Reconstruction & Working through

The steps to recovering from anything needs firm building blocks and renovation. You have to, essentially, go back to go forward. You need to work through it all and look at the process with an open mind and an open heart.

7. Acceptance & Hope

The last stage is the toughest to deal with, but in the end, it brings a sense of achievement and clarity. There will be areas you could have done better, for sure, but there will be those areas where you can feel assured that you did all you could.

In my time, letting go an employee has been part of my growth, many a time, and it’s never an easy journey. I have had to assist employers in letting their staff go (especially over this pandemic), and the one element that always stays true is that with the right recruitment process, you can avoid or at least skip quickly through a few of these Grief stages.

If you are struggling with the recruitment process or in letting an employee go, please reach out and chat with me.

Anthony Kettle is the co-owner of West Coast Personnel, a successful recruitment agency that has been around for going on 21 years in the Table View, Western Cape area. Anthony specialises predominantly in the engineering and manufacturing space; however, he has a wealth of knowledge to impart all aspects of recruitment. He has recently published his books, The Job Seeker’s Handbook and The Recruiter’s Handbook, available on Amazon as eBooks.

You can connect with Anthony via email, web, or social platforms – Facebook – Instagram – Twitter – LinkedIn 

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