As a manager, the time will come (if it hasn’t already) for you to let one of your employees go. Terminations are an inevitable part of business and leaders must make these tough decisions based on the good of the company. However, even for the most seasoned executive, telling someone they are being let go is never easy. In fact, it may be one of the most difficult and stressful activities leaders undertake. When letting an employee go, demonstrating respect and compassion are important for the morale of the company. Be aware: how you treat people on their way out the door does not go unnoticed by the rest of your employees. If you find yourself as the messenger of this bad news, adhering to the following practices will ensure you are handling the situation in the best way for all involved:
Keep It Short
Don’t beat around the bush with small talk. Get right to the point and let the person know they are being let go. Your words should be well thought out and to the point. When you break the news, state the reason for the termination in one or two sentences and then tell the employee that he is being terminated. Stick to the facts – the more you deviate or waffle from the purpose of the meeting, the higher likelihood the conversation may take an inappropriate turn.
If an employee is being let go due to poor performance, tell her that. Don’t make excuses or be evasive. Ensure you have concrete statements prepared based on facts and documentation supporting the decision to terminate.
Terminating an employee is a challenge for the messenger; however, for the employee it can be devastating. When appropriate, offer encouragement in their future endeavors, offer to be a professional reference, and personally walk them out of the building (don’t have them escorted by security unless there is a safety concern). Show your humanity. Make sure to listen to what they have to say and wrap the meeting up graciously.
But…Don’t Say “I’m Sorry”
We’re all human. This meeting can be very emotional for some and make the person delivering the news want to soften the blow by saying “I’m sorry”. The challenge with this is that by saying “sorry” in a way you are placing blame on yourself and not on the employee’s poor performance. Instead, say “I’m sorry this situation has come to this.”
This is not a meeting you want to “wing”. Prepare in advance, consult your HR professional, and make sure you have a witness in the room with you. The more prepared you are going in, the less anxiety and stress you will have during this challenging interaction.
Need assistance with an employee relations issue? Email us or give us a call at 703-587-5615. We consult with our clients every day to help them make the right choices—legally and ethically—for the good of their businesses. We can do the same for you.