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How to Let Someone Go: Buck Showalter

Bat optional
Bat optionalPhotograph by Melissa Golden for Bloomberg Businessweek

I don’t ever want to be good at it. Cut day around here takes an emotional toll on me. I make sure I get a good night’s sleep. I make sure I’m cleanshaven. When they’re sitting across from me, I want them to know that I’ve got a clear head and that it was important to me to give them the time to explain what’s going on. I make a point of asking questions: “How do you think you’ve done here? What do you think you need to improve on? If you’re sitting over here in this chair, how would you view yourself?” Get them engaged. Get them talking. It’s a conversation about their life and their career, and it shouldn’t be one-sided. You’re trying to define reality as you and the organization see it. I tell them exactly: This is the way I see it; here’s why I see it this way. I’m constantly wanting players to know what’s said about them behind closed doors. How can they fix something if you don’t tell them? Sometimes it’s a little painful, but they need to hear those things. I always make sure I have someone with me, in case there’s any discrepancy about who said what. And I try to be prepared for whatever might go a different direction. Some guys are upset. Some don’t really see themselves the same way you see them. I’ve had a bat within short reach. You have to be aggressive. If you’re speaking like you’re not real sure about the action that’s getting ready to take place, that really creates a lot of anxiety. So I’ve rehearsed it. And I always tell them: “If there’s something that you remember later that you really would like to ask me, come on back and we’ll talk about it some more.” I mean, this is their life and career, and I’m not just going to say, “Don’t let the door hit you on the tail on the way out.”

It’s changed so much over the years. It used to be real cold. You’d walk in, and there would be a pink slip in your locker and your uniform was gone. Now you sit down and explain it. I don’t know if it’s really any better, but it makes me feel better because if it ever happened to me, I would want it done that way. — As told to Ira Boudway