On The Job

How to Fire Medical Sales Employees Without Burning Bridges


It’s arguably one of the worst parts of being a medical sales leader: the inevitable firing.

Whether you’ve already experienced it or are anticipating your first termination, you understand it’s not an easy task. The next time you prepare for that uncomfortable conversation with an employee, consider the most important factor: it impacts more than that one employee.

Your entire team is impacted as they plan to cover workloads, lose a companion, and worry about their own job security. In addition to current employees, how you approach terminations will impact the quality and quantity of future applicants.

Consider the repercussions of a disgruntled former employee whose termination wasn’t approached in a professional, graceful manner. With 32 percent of candidates getting company information from contacts at a company and 47 percent using search engines to prepare for interviews, according to LinkedIn’s recent Inside the Mind of Today’s Candidate report, this one misstep could lead to an online frenzy of harmful comments.

Unfortunately, even well-intentioned medical sales leaders are susceptible to hurting companies’ reputations if they’re not well-rehearsed in effectively firing people.

Here’s what you can do to make sure you don’t burn any bridges when letting an employee go:

Create a solid action plan

Unfortunately, when you don’t have a strong course of action, terminations are more likely to result in anger and frustration. No matter how poised you are, it’s possible to get wrapped up in the heat of the moment and say regrettable statements to employees.

An action-based plan will set you up to not only handle your own emotions, but also be prepared for questions, comments, and grief from employees. Laying out a plan will also show employees you’ve thoroughly assessed the situation and are willing to make their transition as easy as possible.

In general, medical sales employees are very passionate about their customers. Create a plan that shows them exactly who will be handling their accounts. Letting them know their dedicated client work won’t be wasted is crucial to helping them move on.

Then, show them a step-by-step plan of the following few days or weeks before their exit. Be sure to include steps that help them prepare for their future and ones that will help co-workers and customers adjust when they’re gone.

Offer the decency of time

Nobody likes this type of surprise. Of course, there are always extenuating circumstances that may result in a day-of termination. But when possible, advanced notice should be given.

Allowing time between notification and actual termination is beneficial for you and employees.

For you and your current team, advanced notice allows you to prepare for any customer issues and train current team members on filling in until a new hire is onboarded. In an already high-stress situation, this prevents you from frustrating and overwhelming your team.

When an employee finds out they’re being fired, there’s an immediate rush of stress and fear. If these two emotions are met with an immediate need to find employment elsewhere, you’ll be left with a bridge that’s forever on fire.

Before deciding on an appropriate amount of notice, consider your own role and emotions. Medical sales is a competitive field, so if you were in their shoes, how much time would you appreciate to find a new job?

Once you’ve decided, explain your reasons for this decision. Use this explanation to show employees you’re not simply following an HR guideline but are invested in their future endeavors.

Show them some love

Getting fired is difficult enough. It’s even more challenging when a company leader doesn’t show remorse, seems overly self-involved, or isn’t interested in their employees’ futures.

When a leader rears this ugly side, the company’s overall culture and well-being will suffer. In medical sales, this is a critical aspect for the happiness of both current and future employees. In fact, 37 percent of respondents in our 2018 8th Annual Medical Sales Salary Report noted culture and values as more important than money.

Prevent burnt bridges by giving employees well-deserved compassion. No matter the reason for firing, your team will appreciate you focusing on the human side of your job and practicing empathy. Offer career development services, and if this is a result of company layoffs, put in a referral to your medical sales network.

As employees — even disgruntled ones — see you putting in the time and effort to see their future through, their likelihood of going on an online rampage will decrease.