Firing someone is a terrible but necessary rite of passage for every manager.
I have two overly dramatic metaphors that have helped me describe it.
In the fifth book of the Harry Potter series, Harry learns that what he originally thought were magically self-propelled carriages are actually pulled by mystical creatures known as Thestrals — winged reptilian horses that are only visible to wizards who have witnessed death. It’s a tangible symbol of the perspective change after seeing another person meet his end.
In the Star Trek: Next Generation episode “Thine Own Self,” the character Deanna Troi earns her promotion to Commander by passing the Bridge Officer’s Test. The solution to the test is to order a fellow crew member to sacrifice himself in order to save the ship.
Years ago, as a manager, I passed my Bridge Officer’s test. And now I can see the Thestrals.
There’s no joy in the deed. In fact, you rob joy from someone else’s life, which is hard for my personality type to handle. But addition by subtraction can still bring joy, if it inspires the rest of the team by reinforcing their belief that hard work is rewarded. And once you’ve lost your innocence and can see the Thestrals, it’s disturbingly easier to order the next crew member to his fate, for the good of the crew.
I find joy in knowing that I can save the ship when I have to. I hope you find joy when you discover you are strong enough to make tough choices.