The best way to let somebody know that you no longer need their services is to prepare the conversation beforehand, make sure your facts are accurate, conduct the meeting privately and honestly, and treat the service provider respectfully.
This article will examine the difficulties behind conducting one of the most uncomfortable work conversations and explore useful strategies to support both parties throughout the exchange.
Why is this particular conversation so awkward?
Informing someone you no longer need their services is essentially a rejection dialogue and so involves a certain amount of pain, particularly so for the person receiving the news.
Unfortunately, neither party usually emerges from this conversation feeling good. As it is a dialogue that can’t be avoided, it’s a good idea to invest some time into developing the skills to coordinate it as painlessly as possible.
The best way to do this is to make clear that a service that is no longer needed, is not one that is no longer valued.
When this conversation most likely will happen
The reasons for cancellation of somebody’s services can be financial (the budget has run out), personal (a feeling of displeasing with the service), contractual (the contract has ended), or conflictual (there are unresolved differences of opinion).
Typical scenarios include:
- You need to downsize your company staff
- You have to manage staff who are not performing to standard
- You are a dissatisfied client in any freelance industry
- You, as personnel manager, must manage an unsolvable client/worker dispute
- You no longer need certain home help services
- You want to change your home help services provider
- A contract has ended, and you don’t plan to renew it
- Hotel guests have complained about the service
Is it ok to tell someone that their services are no longer needed?
It is certainly ok to inform someone that you no longer need their services. Not only is it ok, but sometimes also necessary.
It is the height of discourtesy to leave a worker or service provider uninformed of your decisions.
Although the conversation is not easy, the consequences of avoiding it are worse. It also reflects badly on you if you can’t (or don’t) front up for the more unattractive conversations.
A worker whose services are no longer needed is not a worker whose services are not useful elsewhere. Service workers and providers need to be informed of this distinction clearly so they can move on intact and find more work.
How to prepare for the conversation
The preparation involves approaching the situation thoughtfully, treating the person with respect, and clearly explaining how your situation has changed.
It is also of paramount importance that you have adhered to the terms of work contracts properly and accurately.
Basing the discussion around how things have changed for you removes the blame from the dialogue and prevents it from turning into an indictment of the service that you intend to end.
Your dissatisfaction with the service may indeed be behind the decision. However, this reason is still within the category of how your situation has changed because you no longer feel the same way about the service as you once did.
This strategy is useful because it covers so many scenarios. It doesn’t guarantee and smooth and painless meeting, but it can prevent things from getting messy later on.
When does this kind of thing get really difficult?
Having to tell somebody that you are terminating a working relationship can unravel quickly if certain contractual guidelines have not been followed, if the other person claims unfair or discriminatory treatment, or if you have been careless or dishonest with the contract in the first place.
Challenging conversations can deteriorate fast – and become even more challenging. Consider the following scenarios, all of which may have been avoided through more careful planning in the first place.
- You release a consultant carelessly and insultingly, so after they leave, they use company knowledge to hurt you and your company.
- You have contracted/ hired family members and your decision to let them go is going to impact on your personal relationships.
- You did not read the terms of the contract carefully and the person is threatening you with an unjust dismissal – and they are correct.
- You are releasing someone who has worked loyally for you for many years, and your news ends with them having an emotional breakdown.
- You are not honest with the reasons you no longer require someone’s services and they find out later.
- You replace a worker with someone you feel will be better at the job and they turn out to be decidedly worse.
- The worker you let go insists on taking their work with them.
- You don’t follow correct termination procedures and the person is reinstated and predictably remains fairly unhappy with you.
- You have never been clear about the terms of the contract – neither at the beginning, during it, or at its end.
Unfortunately, this list goes on. This is because all situations where people work closely with other people for periods are complex and convoluted, and alive with the potential for conflict and misunderstandings.
How to conduct the conversation
The best way to hold this discussion is in person, in private, and in time. This means that your preparation for the conversation needs to consist of finding a private location that you can both attend and at a time when you both can handle the discussion.
Timing is important because if you pass the danger marker, or the point when emotions are triggered, tempers fray, and accusations begin, then the situation you are dealing with is no longer the simple release of a worker’s services.
Rather it will become an argument over unjust treatment and lack of transparency.
Therefore, to avoid this happening, the following strategies are recommended:
- Prepare your notes before the meeting.
- Choose a private place and allow enough time to complete the conversation. Turn your phone off.
- If the termination is particularly abrupt, offer an apology for this.
- Be clear about the reason for your decision.
- If the person you are addressing is particularly sensitive, base the reasons around you (and the company’s needs) rather than on the quality of the service that has been provided.
- If the person has a robust outlook and the ability to use the information in a constructive way, give detailed and useful feedback.
- Thank them for their time and efforts. Always find something positive to add at this point.
- If it is useful to you or your company – leave the door open for future work. However, only do this if it is the truth.
Example sentences to cope with the situation
The best phrases to use to inform someone that their services are no longer required are those that are simple, genuine, unemotional, and non-accusing.
Consider the following expressions:
“We want to thank you for everything you’ve done here.”
“You have done a great job, and we appreciate it.”
“We are grateful for your support and professionality over your time here.”
“Unfortunately, the company has to downsize and we are unable to keep everyone on.”
“I have decided to take things in a new direction and won’t be needing your services anymore.”
“I am sorry the contract has come to an end, and we’re all sorry to see you go.”
“We won’t be needing your services anymore, and we’ll all be sorry to see you go.”
“We wish you the best of luck for the future.”
“You can expect a great reference from us.”
“There were a couple of issues with some of the work you did, and we appreciate the way you responded to our feedback. We believe you’re on your way to a great career.”
“Thank you for everything you’ve done. We don’t need anything more at the moment, but we’ll be in touch if we do.”
Things to avoid
The main thing to avoid is launching the decision without undue preparation or consideration for the person receiving the news.
In other words, don’t allow the decision to reach them too abruptly. Sometimes it is possible to prepare a person for the inevitable by announcing the news well in advance, or even by making the terms crystal clear right from the beginning.
Avoid delaying the decision just because you feel uncomfortable about it.
Do not conduct this conversation by phone, text, or email. This shows an unadmirable concern for the worker.
Avoid extras at the meeting. A group of people all facing one person is intimidating and unnecessary. A one-to-one scenario is most appropriate and respectful.
Don’t make explanations long and convoluted. Any extra confusion will only make things worse.
Don’t make promises or offers you don’t intend to honor. This is misleading and unfair.
Don’t spend the time justifying your decision. This makes it seem as though you aren’t entitled to it.
Katie Holmes is a senior author at everyday-courtesy.com with over 15 years of experience in marketing and psychology. As a freelance consultant, she also supports companies and executives in overcoming communication challenges. Katie is a passionate digital nomad working on her first book on the art of communication.