The Art of Leading

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner: How to fire someone with compassion

Why firing someone can be the most compassionate thing to do according to LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner

Firing a staffer is one of the hardest things any leader will do. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, known for his compassionate approach to management, is often asked: how can you fire someone and still be compassionate?

It's all about approach, says Weiner. He notes that many times staffers find themselves in roles that just aren't a fit and those people just can't get their job done. The situation leaves these staffers stressed and burned out. Previously confident people could become a "shadow of their former selves," he says. "You can see it in their body language."

"It's not good for their team, it's certainly not good for them and they bring that energy home with them," he says.

Firing or transitioning these people is an act of real kindness, he says. "One of the least compassionate things you can do is let that person stay in a role where they're way over their head," Weiner says.

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While these staffers might not feel it at the time, being let go can free them to find a role that really suits them. Often, those who have been let go eventually say "it's the best thing that ever happened in their career," says Weiner.

He defines compassion as empathy plus action — or putting yourself in someone else's shoes for the sake of improving that person's quality of life. It's a trait he wishes he'd put into practice earlier, as a young manager. It's also a tip he said he'd give to his 22-year-old self in a commencement address to his alma mater.

"I can tell you with absolute conviction that managing compassionately is not just a better way to build a team, it's a better way to build a company," he told the graduates.

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