Alisdair Smith, Business Chaplain at Christ Church Cathedral

One of the most enjoyable parts of my work is teaching new managers the fundamentals of management. This brings me into contact with a wide variety of people and a wide variety of people management issues. One very common theme is how to let someone go. As I explore this issue, with active managers, it is clear that there are the concerns about legal implications: have I done everything in my power to make the situation work, for example, but, there are moral issues at play too.

From a Christian perspective, if we are called to forgive, if we are called to go after the one lost sheep, if we are called to return no evil for evil, and to support the weak, how can we fire someone? I asked this very question recently at a workshop for Christian business people. The response from one participant was profound, she said, 'I believe you can fire someone with Grace.'

As we explored Grace-full firing, we identified the following components, in addition to meeting all the necessary legal requirements:

More than likely people who are not contributing appropriately are not happy in the job -- firing them might well inspire them to find a job that more adequately meets their own needs, and thus the firing can be an important point in a journey for the person. The Israelites were in some ways fired by Pharaoh!

The 'how' of the dismissal requires tact, care and courage; it's not about the person, it is about particular behaviours, consequences, choices and actions that have created an impossible working environment for all concerned. Thus the firing can be a kind of liberation for people. Sometimes our hearts, like Pharaoh's, might have to be hardened, in order for the person to be liberated.

A Grace-full firing is one that comes only as a last resort. All other avenues have to be explored, and that includes considering that my behaviour or choices as the manager may be a large part of the problem for the employee.

As Moses, Miriam and Aaron led the Israelites through the wilderness, they were making mistakes and learning all the time. This calls managers and leaders to consider making changes themselves, before blaming or firing someone else. It is important then to remember that according to the work of Jim Collins, one of the factors of great leadership is humility: when things are going well, the great leader looks out at the team; when things are not going well, the great leader looks in the mirror.

Is it possible to have a Grace-full firing? What do you think? What components do you think need to be added?

If you have questions, comments or stories about faith, work, money or business ethics, I'd love to hear from you. Please email me at