Firing With Compassion

It is not a fun part of the job, but firing an employee is still part of every small business owner's responsibilities. Learn how to do it as compassionately and be as supportive as possible.


What do you do if you have a team member who has not grown with your company or who is no longer a good fit? Or, you are facing the unfortunate situation of needing to downsize? Do you know you should let them go, but you haven’t yet because they rely on you to put food on the table, or to pay their mortgage? 

That is a complicated and sensitive position to be in, but there are things you can do to let them go in a way that is compassionate and supportive.  

To start, you must first look at what you are and are not, responsible for.  

You are not responsible for someone else’s livelihood—they are. You are not responsible for how someone else interprets a situation, or how they feel—they are. And you are not responsible for anyone else’s financial situation—they are.  

You are responsible however, for how you treat people, how you feel, how you react, and how you approach this delicate situation.  

When we let someone go, it can be easy to get into self-talk that they will not find another job, that it will bring hardship unto them, that it will burn a bridge, or some other tragic result. These are simply not true nor are they your responsibility.  

RELATED: 3 Things to Know About Hiring the Perfect Team for Your Business

What these thoughts and worries do indicate is that you are a caring and thoughtful human.  That you have invested time and energy into this team member, and even though it might be time to go your separate ways, you wish them success and happiness.  

So, what are some ways to separate with care, integrity, and kindness? And, if the financial burden is a real concern how can you mitigate this as much as possible? 

Reflect on what has gone well and focus on this at the beginning of the conversation.  Let them know with sincerity, what you have appreciated about them. Even if there is not much (and we all know this can happen), there is always something positive.  

Be honest about why you are choosing to let them go. This can be hard, we worry about other’s feelings, but doing this in a kind way is possible. But being dishonest and trying to cover up the real reason is lying. They will see right through it, which will leave the relationship on a negative note, which is unnecessary. And, as Kim Scott mentions in Radical Candor, this does no one any favors—be honest, but kind. 

Have empathy. This news can be devastating for some—express empathy but avoid too much emotional reaction. By being empathic, but firm, you allow a space for them to find their own strength and power. When we unnecessarily emote with them it emphasizes the tragedy and creates a space for victimhood to step in.  

Thank them sincerely for their service and then move on.  

RELATED: Read more by Erin Longmoon

As far as the money question is concerned, there are ways to help lessen the burden while they look for another job, here are a few to consider:

Offer a severance, if you can afford it, to help tide them over until they find a new job.  It takes time to find a job, and then there is always the wait for the first paycheck. So, if you can muster a full month’s pay, this is a generous gesture. But even one week is better than none and will show that this matters to you. Do not apologize if you cannot give as much as you wish you could. 

Consider giving a few weeks’ notice. This is often overlooked by employers because they worry the employee will sabotage them or steal from them. First off, this is such a horrible way to feel about an employee. And if you truly have someone like this on your team, then negate much of what I am saying here and ask them to leave, now. But most people are good. And if you handle this correctly, it can be a very kind way to bridge the time until they find a new position. We often ask, and even expect our employees to give us notice, why then do we not show them the same respect? 

Help them find another job. If this is an employee who is just not the right fit for your needs or culture, but could be terrific for another, help spread the word to your network that they are available, endorse them for their strengths, and be a positive reference. And remember, when we hire the wrong fit, it can make someone seem like a bad hire, even someone you do not like. But this is primarily because you made an incorrect choice, not that they are a bad person. So just because they did not work out for you, does not mean they will not work well for someone else.  

Letting someone go can be very hard—in fact it can be just as devastating for you as it can be for them. But you are resilient, they are resilient, you both will be okay. And holding onto someone who should go is not fair to you and is especially not fair to them. You both deserve to work in places that make you happy and joyful. And trust me, if one of you is not, the other is not.  

Erin Longmoon is the CEO of Zephyr Recruiting, which she founded in response to her clients’ needs for help in with building effective and successful teams. Zephyr Recruiting serves the small business community—the mom and pop places that are the backbones of our communities and our economy.

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  • Next up: Five Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Diet
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  • Five Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Diet

    Research shows that following a healthy diet is important for both your overall physical and mental health1. Plus, maintaining a healthy diet can help fight against chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer. To get started, we put together five useful tips that will help you keep and maintain a healthy diet.

    1. Track your progress through nutrition and healthy lifestyle apps – Many people have turned to healthy eating apps to better track and manage their diet. These types of apps allow you to create personalized health goals, track the meals you’ve eaten, search the calorie amount of foods, share healthy recipes and more. Most apps can be installed right on your phone for easy use. 

    Most dieting apps require your daily calorie intake amount. If you don’t know yours, you can find out using the MyPlate Plan from the USDA. To see a list of 10 of the best weight loss and healthy eating apps, click here.

    2. Choose whole foods over processed foods – Whole foods are foods that are in their natural state with little to no processing. Common examples of whole foods include fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Whole foods are a great source of vitamins and minerals, and typically don’t have any unhealthy fats in them. Processed foods have added ingredients and are typically frozen or canned. However, there are some healthy processed food options like canned tuna and yogurt. 

    Looking at the nutritional label can help you determine how processed a food is and if it’s a healthy option. Product ingredients are listed from highest to lowest, meaning that the first ingredient is what the manufacturer used the most of. If the first ingredient includes refined grains or sugar, you can assume that the food is unhealthy.

    3. Try the 80/20 dieting method – The 80/20 rule might be good for you if you don’t want to follow a super strict diet or count every single calorie you eat. The rule is simple – Eat nutritious and clean foods 80% of the time and allow yourself to indulge in unhealthy options the other 20%. If you are having a craving for more unhealthy foods, try eating the food in a smaller portion while drinking a glass of water with it. The water will fill you up, while helping to satisfy your food craving. To learn more about the 80/20 dieting method, click here.

    4. Drink water in place of other beverages – Getting enough water can help maximize your physical performance, increase your energy levels and help curb your appetite. Drinking water is a great way to cut back on unhealthy beverages that are high in sugar like soda and energy drinks. If a plain glass of water doesn’t do it for you, add a slice of lemon or lime to give it some natural flavor.

    An easy way to make sure you get enough water is by using the 8x8 rule. This rule means you should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day.

    5. Explore new recipes – You don’t need to eat the same foods to make your diet work. There are many healthy recipes you can find that are delicious and easy to make. Ask your friends and family if they have any recommendations or do an internet search for healthy recipes. You can also subscribe to a meal-kit service where they ship fresh and healthy ingredients for a recipe that you’ve chosen. To see a list of the eleven best meal-kit services, click here.

    For more information, please talk to your doctor. If you are a COSE MEWA member through Medical Mutual, use our provider search tool to get started. To learn more about the benefits offered through a COSE MEWA health plan, please contact your broker or your Medical Mutual Sales representative. 

    Source: Mental Health Foundation1

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  • Next up: Five Tips to Help Reduce Digital Eye Strain
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  • Five Tips to Help Reduce Digital Eye Strain

    The eyes have it. Digital eye strain, that is. With many of us working remotely, our screens help us get the job done but can also cause eye exhaustion. The good news is here are 5 easy tips to help keep your eyes healthy and reduce eye fatigue.


    How many hours a day do you spend staring at a screen? An hour? Three to four hours? More? According to recent findings from The Vision Council, 60% of Americans spend five or more hours a day with their eyes fixed on a smartphone, tablet, or computer screen*. 

    And why wouldn’t they? Today’s world runs on digital. Mobile devices and computers deliver countless benefits to help us do our jobs, stay informed and connected. However, they can also serve up a less beneficial side effect – digital eye strain.

    Many digital devices and computer monitors emit blue light, and blue light exposure can contribute to digital eye strain. Here’s why: After blue light enters your eyes it scatters. Your eyes then work extra hard to focus that scattered light. In other words, your eyes are putting in overtime on a daily basis, which can contribute to repetitive eye strain and associated headaches, blurred vision, and dry eyes.
    Consider the following five ways to reduce your blue light exposure and decrease the potential onset of digital eye strain.

    1. Ask the expert (your eye doctor!)
    An annual trip to the eye doctor is critical for the entire family (especially children). Ask your VSP network eye doctor about the best options to help you or your children reduce eye strain, whether that’s in the form of computer vision or blue light lenses. Specialty Anti-Reflective coatings can help combat digital eye strain by reducing your exposure to blue light from digital devices and lighting. Even if you don’t wear corrective lenses, some blue light coatings can be applied to non-prescription eyewear. 

    2. Observe the 20-20-20 rule
    Give your eyes a break every 20 minutes and spend 20 seconds looking at something at least 20 feet away. Also, blinking more often helps to moisten your eyes, which may help reduce visual discomfort.

    3. Maintain your digital distance
    Find a comfortable working distance from your screen. This is especially important for children since the intensity of light increases exponentially the closer our eyes are to the source. Children should hold devices as far away from their eyes as is comfortable. Adults are encouraged to hold devices at arm’s length.

    4. Dim the lights
    Turn down the brightness level of device screens to reduce the amount of blue light exposure, especially during the evening hours. Additionally, as LED and CFL lighting also emit blue light, it would be a good idea to dim those at home or work if possible.

    5. There’s an app for that
    A number of apps are also available to help reduce blue light emission from devices.

    * The Vision Council, EYES OVEREXPOSED: The Digital Dilemma, 2016, PDF 

    Information received through VSP Vision Care channels is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice, medical recommendations, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your eye doctor, physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

    See Well. Be Well.™ Make your eye health and eye care a priority. If you haven’t already, take advantage of your COSE member benefit and opt-in to VSP vision insurance. Contact your COSE sales representative or broker for more info.

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  • Next up: Five Tips to Improve Your Heart Health
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  • Five Tips to Improve Your Heart Health


    Your heart is made up of muscle, blood vessels and valves that work together to pump blood to all areas of your body. Two common risk factors for your heart health are high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Both of these conditions can cause damage to your heart, which can lead to serious health issues like a heart attack or stroke.

    So how can you combat heart disease? See the tips below to work on creating a healthier you.

    1.       Get physical

    Living an active lifestyle is a key component to heart health. Staying active helps you maintain a healthy weight, which aids in the prevention of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. Physical activity also improves blood flow throughout the body and supports your immune system. By aiming for 30 to 60 minutes of activity a day, you can easily reduce your chances of heart disease.

    2.       Fuel your body

    Another way to prevent heart disease and manage your weight is by eating a heart-healthy diet. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans/legumes, whole grains, low sodium foods and low-fat dairy products in your diet. These foods provide vitamins and minerals to your body, while foods that contain high amounts of saturated fats, trans fats, sugar and salt put you at risk of developing clogged arteries that can lead to a heart attack. 

    3.       Know your numbers

    The only way to know for sure if you are in danger of heart disease is by getting regular health screenings. Tests that can indicate risk of heart disease include blood pressure screenings, type 2 diabetes screenings or a lipid panel. By knowing your numbers, you can take the first step to improving your overall health.

    4.       Say no to nicotine

    Nicotine increases your blood pressure and contributes to the hardening of the artery walls, increasing your risk for heart attacks. Cigarette smoke specifically limits the amount of oxygen in your blood, therefore causing your heart to work even harder to supply enough oxygen to the body. Even if you aren’t a smoker, be sure to steer clear of secondhand smoke.

    5.       Don’t sweat the small stuff

    Constant stress may increase your tendency to turn to harmful behaviors that raise your blood pressure such as heavy eating, drinking alcohol or smoking. If you experience stress for long periods of time, talk to your doctor about stress management and seek out healthy alternatives to these behaviors.


    For more information, please talk to your doctor. If you are a COSE MEWA member through Medical Mutual, use our provider search tool to get started. To learn more about the wellness benefits offered through a COSE MEWA health plan, please contact your broker or your Medical Mutual Sales representative.


    Sources: Mayo Clinic, American Heart Association, Centers for Disease Control, American Medical Association


    The material provided is for your information only. It does not take the place of your doctor’s advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should make decisions about your care with your doctor. What is covered by your health insurance will be based on your specific benefit plan.


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  • Next up: Five Ways to Get More from Your Vision Benefits
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  • Five Ways to Get More from Your Vision Benefits

    Who doesn’t want to get the most out of their vision benefits? Courtesy of our partners at VSP® Vision Care, here are five ways you and your employees can easily maximize your vision plan.


    A Vision plan is an important part of an employee’s benefits package. Just having benefits is good but enjoying low out of pocket costs is great! Make sure you and your employees are getting the most out of your vision plan by following the five tips below. 

    How to maximize your vision benefits:

    1. Know what your plan covers
    For example, if you’re enrolled in VSP, you can go to, create an account and see your detailed benefit information. Easily find information like co-pays, frame allowance, extra savings and lens enhancement coverage. 

    2. Find a conveniently located in-network eye doctor
    You’ll get the most out of your benefits and save more when you visit a VSP network provider. Plus you can get additional member savings and bonus offers when you choose a doctor who participates in the VSP Premier Program

    If you already have an eye doctor, verify that they’re in-network so you don’t miss out on significant savings. Some places say they “accept” VSP, only to offer a limited discount or out-of-network benefits and that can mean you’ll pay a lot more out of your pocket.

    3. Choose from a wide selection of stylish frames and lenses
    A lot of thought goes into choosing the perfect frame when you’re buying eyewear. Before making your choice, research the quality of the frame and lens materials being used because those factors can make a huge difference in your out of pocket cost and overall satisfaction. 

    You can also get more bang for your buck by checking out special offers on featured frame brands and popular lens enhancements like anti-reflective coatings, progressives, and light-reactive (photochromic) lenses.

    4. Take advantage of your second-pair eyewear discount 
    Many people don’t realize that you can save up to 20% on a second pair of glasses when you purchase from your VSP network eye doctor within 12 months of your last eye exam.  

    5. Get in-network savings shopping on-line
    If you prefer to shop online, check out Eyeconic. You can connect your VSP insurance coverage with your eye doctor’s expertise—all while enjoying in-network savings. Most VSP members can use their vision benefits to buy eyeglasses, prescription sunglasses, and contacts. Eyeconic can fulfill most prescriptions, including progressive lenses and multiple lens treatments. If you’d still like to have assistance from your VSP doctor’s office for that perfect fit, they can send your glasses directly to your doctor at no-cost to you. The best part, you can try before you buy using their virtual try-on tool, from the comfort of your own home!

    *Available only to VSP members with applicable plan benefits. Frame brands subject to change.
    **Savings based on doctor’s retail price and vary by plan and purchase selection; average savings determined after benefits are applied. Available only through VSP network doctors to VSP members with applicable plan benefits. Ask your VSP network doctor for details.

    Make vision health a priority, starting with scheduling a comprehensive eye exam. If you haven’t already, take advantage of your COSE member benefit and opt-in to VSP vision insurance. Contact your COSE sales representative or broker for more info.

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  • Next up: Gen Z: 7 Must-Have Characteristics They Want in a Job
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  • Gen Z: 7 Must-Have Characteristics They Want in a Job

    In just a couple short years, Generation Z is expected to comprise a fifth of the workforce. If you want to successfully attract this talent, make sure you tailor your positions to the following seven characteristics this generation wants in a job.

    Generation Z, those born after 1995 and are just entering the workforce, are different than any generation that has come before them. They are a thoughtful generation in making decisions and that is especially true when it comes to accepting a job. Read on below for a list of the seven things that matter most to this generation in their job search.

    Growth opportunities

    Generation Z plans to change companies no more than four times in their career. Thus, it is important to them to work for a company who offers growth opportunities. From the initial interview through annual performance reviews and everything in between, this generation will be challenging their managers to show them a path. They will want to understand what opportunities are present both inside and outside of the company.

    Generous pay

    This generation watched their parents struggle through a recession. They understand money doesn’t grow on trees and that you must work hard for what you have. They expect to work harder than any prior generation, but they also expect that their salaries match their effort. Generous pay is a priority to them.

    Making a positive impact

    Philanthropists at heart, Generation Z wants to work for companies that are making a positive impact. They want to know the companies they work for are good corporate citizens and are doing good for the communities in which they operate.

    Job security

    Because this generation doesn’t want to change jobs often, it is important to them to know they have job security. They want to feel comfortable in their roles and know that if they work hard, they will have a job.

    Healthcare benefits

    With the ever-changing political scene surrounding healthcare, it is no wonder this generation wants to ensure that they have good healthcare benefits.  It is important not only that they have coverage, but good coverage.

    Flexible hours

    Like the millennials that came before them, Generation Z would like to see flexible hours. Unlike millennials, they prefer to do their work in a traditional office setting with small groups.

    A manager to learn from

    Managers to learn from are becoming an increasingly important attribute. Generation Z wants to learn from their manager as they would like to stay in their companies and grow. Who better to learn from than the person who is leading you?

    If these are the factors that are important to Generation Z, do you feel your company is ready to meet their demands? How might you change your internal policies? With this group becoming 20% of the workforce in 2020, time is of the essence. 

    Ashley Basile Oeken is president of Engage! Cleveland, a nonprofit whose mission is to attract, engage and retain young, diverse talent to the Greater Cleveland area. Learn more about her organization’s work by clicking here.

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