Termination Terrors

February 26, 2016 1:11 pm
Ask any manager or business owner the most unpleasant part of their job and the majority will answer a resounding phrase – terminating an employee.  Handling a termination can evoke anxiety and a sense of dread for even the most experienced business leaders.  How an employer handles the event, however, can make all the difference in the tone and type of separation that occurs. Planning and executing an employee termination in a humane, ethical and professional manner can help diminish a large stir in the workplace.  If done poorly or in anger it can cause not only a huge disturbance in productivity and morale but also in the potential of a lawsuit down the road. Let’s look at termination terrors and how to handle this very sticky situation.


Once the writing’s on the wall for whatever reason (whether it is financial, productivity, cut backs, etc.), it is important to think about some things before you have the sit down with “said” employee. Things to consider:

Prepare – Have all your ducks in a row.  This may mean a written account of the reasons for termination, a letter prepared for the human resources file or just thinking about the best way to actually do the firing.
  • Be prepared by human resources about how to say “you’re fired.” Saying too much can get managers or leaders into legal hot water. Having a prepared written statement may be the best plan of action.
  • Be ready for questions: Monster.com has a list of common questions asked by terminated employees. These include: Can you give me an example of what I did wrong? Will I get a reference from you? Can I file for unemployment? Are you going to tell other employees I am fired? Do I get any severance?
  • Have another manager or HR representative be present for the meeting.  This will serve as a witness and probably keep things from turning ugly and stop false accusations if a lawsuit is filed.
  • Emotionally Prepare.  Allow yourself a few moments to steady yourself and keep yourself calm.  
Know the Laws- Part of your preparation will include understanding if the law is on your side when it comes to firing an employee. Did they break a rule in the handbook, commit a crime or just not cut muster?  Each case is different but your legal team or human resource officer should be able to help you out. If you don’t have an HR Department, you may want to consider hiring an HR consult for the event.  
The Aftermath – Be ready for an avalanche of questions from frightened employees who may think they are next.  Obviously not every detail can be given but employees will notice that someone is missing especially if it is a small office environment. Again consult your HR Department or legal team to find out what you can and cannot legally say.  Be prepared for morale to be low and find ways to counteract this by reinforcing to those that are doing a good job that you recognize their efforts.  


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