When you have to terminate an employee – Breath and …

Posted by:

Terminating an employee, for any reason, be it restructuring, lay-off, or performance, is one of, or indeed, the hardest thing that a manager has to do. Losing one’s job can be devastating for an employee on many levels; loss of income and financial security, erosion of self confidence and ego, and social stigma. It is a manager’s job to make the decision to end the employment relationship and communicate the decision face-to-face in a respectful way. Those managers who use e-mail or the postal service to tell an employee that they are finished, are, in my opinion, disrespectful and cowardly and not doing their job. According to the Neil Sedaka song, “Breaking up is hard to do” and when it comes to terminating an employee, there is no doubt about that.

Many managers that I coach through the termination process are anxious and in some cases, weak at the knees and heart pounding. To be anything other than anxious would be inhuman. Pre-planning the meeting with the employee is extremely important and provides a structure for the manager delivering the news. First, the notice of termination and the severance amount must be decided and detailed in a letter to the employee along with information regarding continuation or discontinuation of benefits, pension plan details, return of company property, and career coaching or outplacement services details, if provided. Second, the place and time of the meeting and who will accompany the manager as a witness and support person needs identification. I typically recommend a neutral meeting place on-site with limited employee traffic and an easy entry and exit layout.  The better time of day to hold the meeting is early morning or at the end of the day. Third, IT will need to be informed so that access to computer accounts, files, and e-mail is cut-off. Fourth, message preparation. The message should be short and to the point. I tell managers to script the message, practice it, and if nerves win the day, read the message. That is perfectly okay. Highlights of the severance letter are also highlighted in these meetings although the employee by this point, is trying to process the message and is typically not hearing the details. Discussion or dialogue on the termination is not recommended. If the employee’s exit is immediate, then the support person or career coach, will help the employee gather personal possessions and leave the premises as soon as possible. Another option is to arrange a time after hours when the employee can come to gather personal items or the company can pack up items and have them countered to the individual’s home.

Termination is the end of a relationship and is the time for managers to treat the exiting employee like they’d like to be treated – with respect.  When you have to terminate, take a big breath and do it right.


About the Author:

Peggie leads both executive search at InTell Executive Search International and the performance improvement practice at Koenig & Associates. Her forte is organizational and individual performance improvement through pragmatic human resources strategies and executive coaching. Peggie lives in a part of Saskatoon she calls the Urban Forest. When she’s not bird-watching on her deck, she trains for marathons by running up the banks of the South Saskatchewan River.

Add a Comment

Please note: JavaScript is required to post comments.