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How I failed during firing a developer

· 3 min read
Matej Jelluš
IT enthusiast that loves to write code and trying new things. Currently working in Bratislava as CTO in Kontentino.

It is easy to say that someone is not good or weak. But it is not easy to make the decision to fire him / her and it is even harder to tell him / her.

This story actually happened 2 years ago. We had a developer we were not happy with. Underperforming or not delivering at all. In the end it was clear he is not a fit and we should say goodbye to him.

He did couple of tasks but it took a lot of time. When we had team discussions how to solve a problem, he was active and often proposed solutions. But the feedback from his peers and even from his manager was still bad. Despite all that, we always decided to give him another chance and another task. It took us quite some time to realise this is not working.

When we had our last meeting where I wanted to end it, it turned really bad. I came there with a basic feedback written down and with colleague from HR. After some easy intro I started with my feedback. I cannot remember exactly what I said, so let's say it was as bad as this: "You did nothing in the last 3 weeks. There is no commit from you. I cannot see any work you did.".

This was my first talk like this ever and I did not have any training for this. I experienced it once on my own and after some time I knew the job was not for me and it was not what we agreed on. So when my manager came and told me I did nothing I agreed and left with no problem.

But this was not that case. He immediately started to defend. "I do have some commits in last days! I was working on some server solutions." and so on. I was shocked and not prepared for such answer. I tried to explain it better, but he was still defending. So I got upset and exploded. I did fire him, but even the HR told me, this was not good.

Because of this event I started to look for some help. As a company, we organized a training for giving feedback. I must say this was very helpful. It was done by a woman and she even starter with the same bad thing I did. As an example she used situation when she comes home and her husband didn't clean and didn't take away the garbage. So she said: "You are at home the whole day and you did nothing!". And it continued like my story. Her husband started to defend. On this example she explained you need to be very specific when delivering feedback. Instead of saying "you did nothing" she should say "you did not clean". Maybe continue with a question why so that she could understand the other side. I don't want to go too deep here. I can just recommend a training like this and read something before your first firing interview.

From that time I had interviews like this and I must say it was much much better. I come well prepared and I am very specific about things. Of course I am sure I can still improve and master it even better to handle all the situations.

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