How to terminate an employee: 10 things you should do
Performance 4 minute read

How to terminate an employee: 10 things you should do

Rise | February 25, 2020

Terminating an employee is an unpleasant experience, but generally necessary. It's important that leaders know how to terminate an employee effectively and appropriately.

When it comes time to inform an employee that you are terminating their employment, you need to be well prepared.

Determining how to terminate an employee with professionalism and tact involves many considerations. Here are 10 things you should do to help you through one of the most sensitive and difficult conversations you will have as an employer.

1. Consult a lawyer

Speaking with an employment lawyer is a critical step in avoiding communicating the terms of your employee’s termination in a way that contravenes legislation. A lawyer can also verify your action plan to provide a notice of dismissal or payment in lieu for your employee.

2. Prepare a script

To make sure you are well prepared for your conversation with your employee, write a script outlining the key points you want to make in advance of your meeting. Ensure that you explain the reasoning behind terminating their employment, such as issues with the employee’s performance and fit. Upon providing this explanation, tell them that you have made a final decision along with their effective employment end date and what the company is prepared to offer in terms of severance.

3. Put it in writing

Employers must provide a termination letter to the departing employee and present this document at the meeting. This letter should be prepared in advance and include the message that was given in your conversation, from an overview of the decision to terminate to an outline of severance considerations.

4. Bring a witness

Termination meetings should be conducted face to face, but terminations should not be a one-on-one conversation. Having a witness present can help keep the meeting from escalating out of control, especially if you have concerns about the employee’s potential reaction or behaviour to the news.

5. Keep it private

Termination meetings are confidential and private in nature. When arranging the meeting details, choose a time of day when there will not be many people around. Meet with the employee in a neutral meeting room rather than your own office.

6. Stay on topic

After receiving the news of their termination, it is not uncommon for employees to request a second chance, ask for a performance improvement plan, or seek out more feedback. 

Avoid getting trapped in lengthy responses, remain calm and respectful, and do not allow the conversation to sway from your key message. It is helpful to reiterate your point that your decision is final and that it is not the time for performance feedback.

7. Brief them on compensation

The question of your departing employee’s final payment is important to address with complete clarity. Ensure that you brief the terminated employee on the terms of their severance pay and benefits as well as any transition assistance if available.

8. Debrief with human resources

Immediately after the terminated employee has left the premises, send an email to human resources detailing what was communicated and how the employee reacted. This written documentation of the conversation can be helpful in the event of any legal action.

9. Tell the rest of your team

The departure of a team member will have an effect on their department along with other staff members. Brief other team members on the news and ensure you maintain the privacy and dignity of the departing employee. Have a plan in place to discuss your transition strategy for the departure, such as how the departing employee’s workload will be managed. This transparency will ensure that team morale does not suffer as a result of your company’s decision.

10. Take care of yourself

The best thing you can do in advance of the termination meeting is to prepare yourself mentally and carefully think through how you will orchestrate the termination. Terminations are never easy to conduct, and chances are this may take a lot out of you, so make sure you schedule an easy day for yourself for the remainder of the work day.

Download "The Must-Have Employee Termination Guide for HR Pros" for more helpful tips and resources on terminating an employee.

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