When you get offered a new job or contract you feel amazing, someone is willing to pay you for what you do and it is personal. And yet, when we terminate the employment relationships we are expected not to take things personally? It’s always personal and it always hurts. The only thing we can do is treat people with dignity and empathy when we end an employment relationship.
I have worked for over 20 years in HR and I have had multiple termination conversations. In this trying time, many people are being terminated from their roles and contracts. I wanted to share the best way to terminate employment with diginity.
- The initial meeting- The most important part of this conversation is understanding that this is a shock, the employee is now thinking what they have done wrong and how will they put food on the table. Showing empathy is the best thing you can do. I often say “ I understand this is a shock and you must be feeling terrible, go home now and lets talk tomorrow when you have had time to digest and we will make an exit plan and a communication plan. We can talk in the office or on the phone I will call you and you can tell me what is more comfortable for you.”
- Have the letter ready for them with all of their benefits listed and when they will be paid, ensure they can take these home with them and digest.
- Don’t walk people offsite and cancel their access card and email on the spot. You have trusted this person for a long time so why stop now? Unless they have done something awful or unlawful, you would hope they are mature enough not to cause damage as they would want a reference later.
- Involve them in the exit, handover, notice and communication plan. Ask how long they need to handover their tasks, anything longer than a couple of weeks can be hard for all parties involved. If you feel they should handover quickly and pay out the rest of the notice, tell them they will be paid for the remainder of the notice period.
- To avoid being sued, you can often add a couple of weeks paid noticeand ask them to sign a legal waiver in order to receive this extra payment. Be generous with your notice payments if you can, this can help with avoiding court cases ( assuming you have followed all the correct procedures).
- Try and be honest about references if they want to put you down as a referee and you are not going to be helpful to them, then say “I am not the best person perhaps you could ask someone else?” I know alot of companies dont give references which is difficult for someone when they leave, I am personally not a fan of this type of policy.
- Offer someone for them to talk to once they have left, a contact in hr or outsourced counselling is very important.
Remember it always feels personal and we all deserve to leave a place of employment with our dignity intact.
Karen is a freelance HR Manager with a focus on medium size businesses and emerging tech companies. For more HR advice on how to manage terminations contact firstname.lastname@example.org