AI and Leadership: Letting a Team Member Go

by Erik Reagan

Ai leadership letting someone go

You’ve probably noticed the rise in discussing Artificial Intelligence over the past few months. Specifically, the rapid growth of a tool called ChatGPT. Today we’re exploring how ChatGPT might aid our work in leadership and professional development.

To set some context and create some boundaries for this particular exploration, I’d like to note that I’m only focused on the utilization of AI here. As interested as I am in the implications on ethics, economics, technology, schooling, etc., I won’t be cramming those aspects into these posts.

Rather than start with a topic that might be more commonly discussed, like goal-setting or growth plans, we're starting with something complex and challenging.

Today’s Topic: Letting Someone Go

One of the most difficult parts of leadership is knowing when it’s time to part ways with a team member—and then doing it. So let’s see what type of advice we can get from ChatGPT.

  • Version: GPT-4, Mar 23, 2023 Version
  • Prompt: I am a business owner of a small business. You are a leadership and executive coach. My company is young and small, and I need to lay off my first hire. What advice would you give me as I consider how to go about this layoff?

ChatGPT's Response

As a leadership and executive coach, I understand that laying off an employee, especially your first hire, can be a difficult and emotional experience. Here's some advice to help you navigate this process:

1. Reflect on the decision: Before making the final decision, ensure that you have thoroughly considered the reasons for the layoff, explored all possible alternatives, and confirmed that it is the best course of action for the company's long-term success.

2. Be transparent and empathetic: Approach the conversation with honesty and empathy, recognizing the impact this decision will have on the employee. Be prepared to provide a clear explanation of the circumstances that led to the layoff and the factors that influenced your decision.

3. Choose the right time and place: Schedule a private, one-on-one meeting with the employee in a comfortable and discreet location. This will help maintain their dignity and allow for a more open conversation.

4. Prepare yourself: It's important to remain composed and professional throughout the conversation. Rehearse what you will say beforehand to ensure you convey the information clearly and with empathy.

5. Provide support: Offer assistance with job search resources, networking opportunities, or even a reference if appropriate. This can help ease the transition for the employee and demonstrate your commitment to their well-being.

6. Communicate with your team: After the layoff, address the remaining team members and provide a transparent explanation of the situation. Be prepared to answer questions and reassure them about the company's stability and future plans.

7. Learn and grow: Use this experience as an opportunity for growth, both personally and professionally. Reflect on what led to the layoff and how you can improve your leadership and decision-making moving forward.

Remember, while laying off an employee is never an easy task, handling the situation with transparency, empathy, and professionalism can help make the process smoother for everyone involved.

How’d ChatGPT do?

Not bad! For quick and generic advice, I am pretty impressed with this response.

The catch here is that this topic is one that always carries with it a level of nuance that a single question and response like this would miss. There are also employment law implications that a leader should always be aware of when walking through this type of process.

So let's get personal. Let's say you and I are in a coaching session, and this is a key topic. There are a few things I would help you consider that are unique to your situation, things ChatGPT won't be aware of. Things like:

  • your organization's core values
  • the reason you need to part ways with this person
  • if letting this person go is actually the appropriate decision
  • your team member’s role and performance
  • your organization's current financial position
  • your long-term goals that are relevant
  • the role that you play in the decision and the next steps
  • the role that you played leading up to this decision
  • any employment law contacts you can consult (since Built on Purpose doesn't provide legal counsel)
  • if you've never done this before, we'd likely create a clear path of what to do next as you step through this process
  • and plenty more

Letting someone go is a difficult and important thing to navigate. It’s something that benefits from both general and particular guidance. That said, it is clear that a tool like chat GPT can provide helpful ideas when prompted effectively about these topics.

I look forward to exploring other ways that AI can help us in our leadership and professional development goals.

Opening photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash

Photo of Erik Reagan

Written by Erik Reagan