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  • Writer's pictureMarissa Badgley

Termination NOT Torture: A Quick Guide to Letting Humans Go with Compassion & HEART

In the wake of continuing and highly visible mass layoffs in the tech sector, it feels important to scream this from the rooftops today...


If you are in a position of power and are forced to end somebody's employment (with or without cause), consider how you can do it with compassion and HEART. Let me spell it out...

H = Humanity. Honor people's humanity before, after, and during the termination. Remember the person is a human with a story, real emotions, inherent gifts and strengths, flaws and imperfections, and natural human needs. Even if they are no longer relevant to your team or organization and no matter how frustrating or ineffective they are, every person has value. We are tasked with honoring that value in one of the hardest and most vulnerable moments of their lives.

E = Empathy. You aren't walking in this person's shoes, but everyone can point to times in their life when they were dismissed, when they failed, or when they were blindsided. Empathetic termination means recognizing that you have the power to let this person go with grace, compassion, sensitivity, and love. It means naming the impact and offering support. We are tasked with being clear and to the point, but also gentle and forgiving.

A = Authenticity. Be true to yourself and your values throughout the termination process. Be honest about your emotions. Don't fake kindness. Don't make empty promises you can't keep. Don't compromise on what you believe in or who you are because you're doing something that feels hard and uncomfortable. Authentic termination also requires us to create space for the other person to show up with their real-time authentic emotions and perspectives. We are tasked with listening.

R = Relationships. It may feel like termination means that a relationship is ending, which is only partially true. Maintaining relationships throughout a split is actually quite important. Use the time to honor the relationship you have with the person and the other relationships that are being lost. This is a time to make deposits in a relationship bank account rather than withdraw. We are tasked with using what we know about people to make this process as "easy" as possible.

T = Trust. Trust is inevitably affected when you have to let somebody go but it's important to be as trustworthy as possible AND make the process as trustworthy as possible. Be reliable. Be credible. Take your ego out of it. Have integrity. Be fair. Be honest. Be accountable. Offer recognition. We are tasked with helping people trust themselves again.

The bottom line is that we can do better. We must do better. What I've been seeing on LinkedIn and reading about on the news is breathtakingly awful and some of the awfulness is preventable when we are willing to step back and reflect on how to be more HEART-centered in all that we do.


If you're in the hard position of needing to let someone go, and would like to make sure you do it in the heart-iest way possible, let's set up time to chat!

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