Termination Dos and Don'ts

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A big thanks to LinkedIn Sales Navigator for the photo

Termination is the break-up of the business world. It’s painful, both parties feel like they’ve failed and no one likes to talk about it.

There are some ways that make termination easier for everyone, and it’s advice that, as an HR professional, I’ve been asked for (and given) what feels like hundreds of times.

1. Termination should never come as a surprise.

Before you break the news, you should have had several (I typically advice about three) conversations about whatever behaviour it is that will eventually lead to termination. As a part of these conversations, you should offer to help.

This gives your employee a chance to modify their behaviour. It also gives them the chance to start looking for another job now that they have an idea that things aren’t going well. Best case for you, they find something else before you move forward with the termination.

[Note: If you’re already at the point where you’ve missed the window to have these conversations, don’t worry too much. Just keep it in mind for next time.]

2. Try your best to avoid terminating on a Monday and definitely do not terminate on a Friday.

And always do your best to do it first thing in the morning (or at the beginning of their shift).

Avoiding Mondays is just polite. Your employee enjoyed a relaxing weekend, woke up early this morning to come into the office to start their week only to be dismissed.

Fridays are another matter. Post-termination is a rough time for anyone. Your ex-employee may need to reach out to their doctor, their counselor or their lawyer. And most of those places are closed on the weekend. You need to give them the option to get help if they need it.

3. Always have the termination conversation in pairs.

Typically it’s the current manager and HR. But if your team isn’t big enough to have an HR person, just make sure you have a second employee in the room.

This isn’t for legal reasons. It accomplishes two things: a) You avoid the “he said vs she said” situation. Especially you feel at risk for repercussions from your employee.

b)Terminating someone is hard. If one of you starts to ramble or flounder, the second person can step in and redirect the conversation.

4. The conversation needs to be brief and to the point.

But don’t confuse brief with curt. This is someone’s life that’s changing. The communication needs to be:

 “I’m really sorry to tell you that this is your last day at our company”.

Don’t dive into the “why”. As hard as that is, it opens you up for legal recourse by your ex-employee.

The next part is easier. Gently handle their reaction and make sure you walk through the legal paperwork they have the option of signing over the next couple of days.

5. Make sure to have a box ready.

You need to make sure that one of you accompanies your now ex-employee to their desk to collect their things. They may not be able to carry everything personal that they keep on their desk.

It’s also important that you don’t let them touch their computer – it’s an emotional moment and you want to avoid a rash reaction directed towards the company or its product(s).SIt does happen that some people have personal files or photos on their computers. You can gently offer to have the IT team put those on a USB key to be returned to the ex-employee at a later date.

And you’re done! Termination is always difficult. So you should take on the responsibility to do everything you can to make it better for everyone. Good luck and give me a shout if you need any help with your next termination.

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