Termination - there is no easy way

October 18, 2012

Ending an employee's employment is the hardest decision for any leader and one of the worst jobs to have to undertake. It's never easy. Sometimes it just has to be done to accommodate skill upgrades, to ease out poor performers or disruptive individuals. Whatever the reason, to avoid further value destruction to your business or team and assist the departing employee to find their next venture good planning will help.

A valuable goal to keep in mind is for both parties to exit the process with self-respect intact. In the majority of cases the situation will be nothing more than the employee being in the wrong job at the wrong time. Somewhere exists the right job and protecting the employee's sense of worth will benefit both parties. Remaining employees will be eager to know how the organization handled the situation as a pointer to how they may expect to be treated in such circumstances.

The old truism that the boss is the last to know means that it may already be painfully obvious to the entire staff that this employee does not fit. Being fair and respectful is obvious but additionally helps contribute to a positive employment brand. Being the nice guy  doesn't mean finishing last.

Planning the logistics for the day will be important:

  • Plan the meeting for a time where the least number of people are in the office
  • Rehearse what you plan to say - keep the message short and simple
  • Listen but do not engage in discussion
  • The employee's immediate supervisor should usually deliver the message
  • HR or another senior employee should explain the terms and collect company  belongings
  • When outplacement services are being offered the consultant should begin the focus on finding the next role
  • Have a short, respectful message to staff ready to go as soon as the employee has left. "Tom has left the company this morning; we wish him success in the future" is sufficient and then move on to business continuity and your plan to manage transition of responsibilities

Whether to have the employee leave the building immediately or make their own way out of the work place will be a case by case decision balancing disruption to the work place with respect for the employee that is leaving.

Coming to a decision to end someone's career with an organization is a serious matter and generally human nature is such, that the decision will take longer than it perhaps should. Try to avoid unintended consequences by carefully planning the communication and logistics.

Handling a difficult situation in a timely and human way speaks to the type of organization you want to be and the leader that you are, which in turn will be rewarded with increased productivity and loyalty.

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