How to Politely Fire a Consultant Professionally and Decisively

Hiring a consultant can be a challenging process, with unfulfilled promises or software capabilities that failed to meet business outcomes. Despite pursuing a trial period, the arrangement just didn’t seem to live up to expectations. Though it maybe difficult to terminate a service provider, especially if working with past colleagues or friends, this is a prudent decision to recuperate loses and to begin moving the right direction. Mindfield provides steps on how to fire a consultant in professional services or technology.

Firing consultants without leaving them up in the air.
Image courtesy of chirinecarlo with rights reserved.

Top Reasons why Companies Terminate a Consultant

Here are some reoccurring themes that are commonly encountered when working with traditional professional services:

  1. Poor Performance – stated goals and objectives were not met, along with contrast in advertised skillset versus what was available
  2. Change in direction – the company or organization is changing direction in terms of a strategy or market emphasis
  3. Requirement for full time staff – companies may often times bring expertise in-house after a function is proven its worth
  4. Lack of fit with organization – despite having sound technical or business acumen some consultants may simply not contribute to the cultural capital of an organization, where by work is completed but employees are left with a negative experience. Or the consultant could simply be incongruent with your organizational values.
  5. Financial uncertainty – the market may prove soft  and your department may require offloading consulting expenses for a time being
  6. Contract expiry – companies may sometimes decide not to renew a contract after it has elapsed

Steps to Politely Firing a Consultant for Poor Performance

Despite frustration and disappointment business leaders should remain professional and frank with their underperforming consultant. It is important to remain focused on issues rather than to address points of a consultant’s character which could lead to further complications in the situation. Here are some steps to terminating a consultant:

  1. Identify the service and goals that were unmet
  2. Document or summarize past instances of performance issues
  3. Provide a formal notice to based on agreed channels of correspondence
  4. Indicate how services were made in earnest effort but does not meet the expectations of the business
  5. Express respect for the team or consultant
  6. Offer to be available for any feedback, but be firm that there won’t be considerations for further contracting of service


Steps to Professionally Terminate a Consultant Due to Change in Direction

Signal indicator in a underground settingDespite a positive working relationship often times a strategic change in the business is required for long-term viability. Business leaders will then need to make a difficult decision in terminating a working consulting relationship. However a consultant’s focus is to support the viability of the company and the conversation may be less difficult than imagined. During a call or through written notice:

  1. Identify the progress, achievements made by the consultant and thank them
  2. Recognize any contributions that have helped your team clarify future direction
  3. Provide a brief summary of the strategic direction and explain how their services may not be aligned at this time
  4. Offer references for their scope of work completed
  5. Confirm the termination in writing or mode of agreed correspondence

Steps to Politely Firing a Consultant when Needing a Full Time Permanent Staff

Often times when a consultant is brought in they are entrusted with demonstrating the value of an expertise. Once value is gleamed companies may determine that hiring an individual internally be more prudent. Business leaders should consider a tactful approach to terminating a consultant the has served them. For most consultants this is an ideal arrangement since master level consultants enjoy working themselves out of a job and are incredibly helpful in transitioning the work.

  1. Identify the progress and achievements made by the consultant
  2. Recognize them for helping the business consider their work to be so important that they need a full time staff
  3. Thank them for providing adequate levels of service
  4. Express  trust in their expertise by consulting them on transition hires
  5. Confirm the termination in writing or through agreed correspondence channels
  6. If applicable offer references to the outbound consultant

Steps to Terminate a Consultant Due to Lack of Professionalism or Fit

Businesspeople arguing in meeting

Professional fit is a difficult circumstance to manage, particularly when the consultant is able to deliver the work required. This s best addressed early as professional competent resources can win momentum and can risk dividing your organization in the long-term.

  1. Identify the progress and achievements made by the consultant
  2. Recognize them for helping the business move forward
  3. Express that after careful consideration and input from the team, that the consultant’s is
    1. Too different to complement the organization’s style
    2. Consultant’s approach to doing business is irreconcilable with the values of your team
  4. Confirm the termination in writing or agreed upon correspondence channels
  5. If applicable offer references to the outbound consultant

Steps to Terminate a Consultant Due to Financial Uncertainty

A common cost cutting approach is to terminate auxiliary staff members like consultants. Here are some approaches to expressing financial uncertainty to terminate a consultant but be prepared to respond to a counter offer:

  1. Communicate through pre-determined correspondence channels that is preferred by the consultant
  2. Express in brief the financial situation  of the company
  3. Thank them for providing adequate levels of service to date and any notable achievements

Steps to Terminate a Consultant Due to Contract Expiry

Contract expiry is another opportunity to terminate a consultant however this is typically an undefined category, as there are typically reasons similar to the above that is required as part of this termination. It is common for consultants to request feedback on why the contract isn’t being extended. Here are the following steps to terminate a contract on expiry

  1. Communicate through pre-determined correspondence channel (email, phone, fax, or letter)
  2. State that the company will not extending contract
  3. Provide any reasons or extenuating factors that determined this decision
  4. Note when the payment will be sent for the last period of services
  5. Thank them for providing adequate levels of service

Approach and Timing for Termination in a Professional Manner

Business suit arm with a watchDifficult news should come as soon as possible but there are certain strategies in the industry that can provide additional tact and professionalism. Ideally termination of contract should be sent to the account manager or project lead when working with a team of consultants. The preferred channels of communication in order of most professional include: face to face meeting, video conference, telephone conference, and written notice.

In terms of best times to provide communication on terminations it is often cordial to avoid days prior to the weekend like Thursday or Friday, which could impact the consultant and their personal time off. The Preference is typically to provide notice early in the week so that there is time to adjust and make plans, allowing the consultant greater peace of mind during the weekend.

Get a Second Opinion on a Project or Consulting Partnership

Mindfield Consulting has enabling organizations to deliver core business and mission critical technology for two decades. Clients trust us to audit and provide project relief when there are challenges that arise. If uncertain feel free to contact us for a consultation and review of your existing consulting arrangements.

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