Tips for a Successful Termination: Maintaining Respect and Safety
Ending the employment relationship is one of the most difficult situations for an employer to be in. It is equally hard on the employee. To ensure our HR experts are always prepared to handle the stresses of a termination meeting, we regularly connect to review our previous "lessons learned". This is where we take the reflections of our last experience and put them into action. Recently, the LIHR team participated in a Termination Role Playing Session where HR Advisors could practice their skills ending the employment relationship and make improvements to their approach.
Within minutes, the “terminated” employees were visibly upset, threatening to sue the organization, and tearing up their release documents, every employer’s worst nightmare. The HR Advisors attempted to refer to their training, our client checklists, and scripts to calm the situation and proceed – and stifle their laughter! Although it was a highly dramatized situation, it taught us all a great lesson: During terminations you need to be prepared for anything and have the proper tools in place to deliver the information respectfully and safely.
Here are our best tips to come out of this practice session:
1. Make safety the utmost importance for all involved
Perform a pre-meeting risk assessment and determine if additional support is required;
Position yourself by the door so you have an escape route if needed;
Remove items from the room that can be thrown or damaged;
Protect staff outside of the meeting room too by escorting the former employee out of the building;
Ensure the individual has a safe way home and provide transportation if needed;
Support the individual by explaining what community resources are available to them;
Always have another person with in you the room; and
Never end an employment relationship at the end of the day or on a Friday to ensure that the individual has access to community medical, legal, and financial supports.
2. Stick to the script but remember to be human:
Don’t ignore the employee’s emotions. Allow them to have their feelings and be sure to respond respectfully while staying firm to the purpose of the meeting;
Offer the employee water or a moment to collect themselves. Say “when you are ready, we will continue;” and
Don’t engage in arguments or respond to taunts or vicious comments. Instead, say, “I understand this is a hard situation to be in, however, please remain respectful so we can provide you with the information.”
3. If things get ugly, at least ensure the following:
The employee has been provided with the letter, their full and final release, and explanation of the terms;
You’ve prepared three hard copies of the documents (one for you to reference, one for the employee, and a spare copy);
The employee is aware that they can take time to review the documentation with legal assistance;
The employee no longer has access to sensitive information, company technology, and vehicles; and
If an employee storms out, give them time to calm down before sending an email with PDFs of the same documents and terms.
While even just practicing terminations can be uncomfortable, it is an important exercise for managers, employers, and HR professionals to experience the many variables that can occur during a real event. Was our team’s practice situation on the extreme side? Yes. Is an outraged or aggressive reaction from a terminated employee unheard of? Unfortunately, no. Luckily for us, we were able to lighten the mood by moving on to the Snowy Owl Awards hosted by Kip Kipperson (a.k.a. our Office Manager, Dave).
Do you have questions surrounding the termination process or want to learn more?
Your HR business partner, or services like our 4-Hour Monthly HR Advice Package , can help you adopt best practices that apply to your unique organization and jurisdiction.
For professional HR advice that you can trust, contact us today!
Lisa Isaac HR Professional Services
From the LIHR team and lead collaborator, Allison Leach, HR Advisor