9 Tips For Terminating An Employee with Dignity and Compassion



The economic repercussions from COVID-19 has left many businesses struggling financially, forcing them to take a look at their budgets and make personnel cuts to stay afloat.

While terminating an employee might be entirely necessary, it can be extremely difficult to do so. Every situation is different, and no matter what your corporate lawyers may tell you, there’s no standard script for letting someone go that makes the process any easier.

While each situation should be taken case by case, we received nine insights from HR professionals on their best tips for letting someone from the company go with dignity and compassion.

Prepare for the Conversation

Prepare for the conversation ahead of time so that you are not fumbling with your words and can communicate the reasons for termination in a confident yet caring manner. Make sure that you leave space in the conversation for the employee to respond and voice questions they may have. If you valued the work the employee contributed to the firm, consider offering a letter of recommendation and connecting him or her with someone that can offer a path to new career opportunities. 

Chris Dunkin, Portable Air

Maintain Communication

Continue to maintain open communication with them, on LinkedIn or otherwise, if they express interest. Give them reasons why it didn’t work out or why you made the decision and offer to be a reference in the future. Show them that there is not a locked door between you and them. Maintaining civil conversation will prevent a disaster down the road.

Megan Chiamos, 365 Cannabis

Commit to Helping With the Transition

We recently had to make the incredibly tough, gut-wrenching decision to downsize our workforce. The best tip I can offer any executive in that position is to make sure you do everything you can to help those employees transition to new roles. Make introductions. Write LinkedIn recommendations. Schedule one hour on your calendar each week in the months after the termination to check-in with ex-employees to see if there’s anything you can do to assist with their job search. By treating a termination as the first day of a journey, and not the last day, employers can earn their dignity by showing true compassion and commitment to people who showed the company the same.

Brett Farmiloe, Markitors

Be Firm, Not Cruel

Don’t try to be overly-soft about the situation. Be firm, but not cruel, and understand that this is a difficult situation to be in from both sides. Answer their questions and offer them help, if possible, in their coming search. Just because they are no longer an employee does not mean they are not a person. Be willing to be compassionate!

Henry Babich, Stomadent Dental Lab

Give Fair Warning

Termination should be the last step in a careful and considered process. By the time an employee is terminated, they should not be surprised. They will have been given opportunities to improve their performance and understood that if they failed to do so, they may be subject to termination. In some cases, however, employees may not agree that they failed to improve. In those circumstances, it is important for a manager to be kind, but firm in their decision. In times of financial hardship, let employees know that layoffs are unavoidable and to prepare.

Dan Reck, MATClinics

Short and Long Term Plans

What has worked for us and our clients is a short-term plan and long-term plan for all who are departing. The short-term plan could be more motivational by providing a small package that will help them out financially during their job search. A long-term plan is to provide them access to a coach or a company that focuses on mental anxiety and challenges them to get a job within six to eight weeks. And in this challenge, they also have accountability partners to hold them accountable for their actions. The relationship never really ends. This is because if we do it right, they will still talk highly of our brand and would want to work for us again when/if the time is right.

Abhijeet Narvekar, The FerVID Group

Distinguish Between the Employee and the Termination

A termination is never about the person. When we can distinguish between the employee as a person and the reason for the termination (the act), then we can keep the dignity of the person intact. When the employee feels good about who they are they can better accept the reason for the termination, learn from their mistake, and move forward. Communicate that we want to correct the act and not the person.

Sonja Talley, Principal HR Consultant

Be Mindful of the Timing

Treat the person respectfully. Tell him/her up front that the reason for the meeting is to discuss termination. (They are probably fearing this, anyway.) If it's for poor performance, consider saying that the job demands are not a good match with the person's abilities, rather than the person not being a good match. Even if the termination is for misconduct, remain professional. Try to time these things for late in the day to avoid the walk of shame that can happen when other coworkers are present. Try to not terminate an employee on Friday afternoon. If he/she needs to speak with payroll or benefits or even his/her physician or therapist, you want to allow a business day or two for the employee to reach out to others if you can.

Colleen McManus, Senior Consultant

Keep Their Feelings in Mind

A big contributor to the emotional distress of being terminated is the embarrassment when others find out. It's like broadcasting to the world that they couldn't cut it. Instead, give them a narrative that you won't contest. This will not only help them save face among their personal network, but it will also help them as they search for a new job.

Phil Strazzulla, SelectSoftware Reviews 




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