Termination meetings are serious, sensitive discussions which require preparation and forethought. It is not easy for the manager who has to conduct the termination meeting, nor for the employee who is being terminated. It can be difficult and emotional to have this conversation and it isn’t unusual to be anxious or nervous about it.
Here are some tips on how to conduct a termination meeting effectively.
Plan for the Termination Meeting
- Prior to the meeting, prepare what will be said, how it will be said and in what sequence.
- Anticipate a variety of reactions that the employee may have, and prepare appropriate responses to those reasons. Common reactions include the employee acting in a shocked, angry, emotional, manipulative, and/or out-of-control manner.
- Prepare for a brief 10 to 15 minute meeting.
- Review the termination package and documentation to ensure you understand it all and can summarize it to the employee. If you are providing a severance package, make sure that you have consulted with an employment lawyer.
- Ensure termination date is not the employee’s birthday, anniversary or company anniversary date.
- Prepare a list of items you require back from the employee such as keys, pass cards, cell phone, laptop, company materials, etc.
- Rehearse with someone else the flow of the meeting and what you will say.
- Plan the logistics for the termination meeting:
- Who will be in attendance?
- Who will deliver the message?
- Where will the meeting take place?
- What time will the meeting take place?
- What will remaining employees be told and when?
- Will the employee be allowed to return to their desk to gather personal effects or must they leave immediately? If immediately, when can they come back for their things?
- Arrange for a ride home for the employee, if necessary.
- Make sure there is a box of tissues available in an inconspicuous place in the meeting room.
- If the employee is to leave immediately, make sure the meeting location and exit are in close proximity; otherwise it will be awkward for the employee to have to walk through the entire office or workspace.
- Regardless of the reason for the termination, ensure that the employee is treated as respectfully as possible during the meeting.
- Advise any parties who need to be aware of the pending termination in advance, for instance:
- Payroll to ensure appropriate actions are taken and payments are processed.
- Information Technology to ensure that network access is cancelled, passwords are reset, etc.
- Security/Police if you anticipate a volatile or violent employee response to the termination.
- Outplacement or Employee Assistance Program provider if that is an option to be offered.
- Communications/Public Relations advisors if it is a high profile termination.
Conduct the Termination Meeting
- Meet with the employee in private, where you will not be interrupted.
- Get to the point of the meeting quickly. Be clear and succinct, yet compassionate.
- Advise the employee of the effective date of the termination.
- Give a brief overview of the terms of the termination. You do not need to provide an extensive overview of the details of the package as the employee will likely not be able to process the information, especially if the termination comes as a surprise.
- Allow the employee an opportunity to ask questions. Be empathetic and understanding in your response but avoid getting into a discussion about the merits of the termination decision.
- Offer personal support and help, if possible, but not in terms of reversing a decision.
- Discuss details concerning the transition and get required items back from the employee if he/she is to leave immediately. Make arrangements for the employee to gather personal effects, either after the meeting or arrange an alternate time/day.
- If appropriate, thank the employee for their service and wish them well.
After the Termination Meeting
- Advise remaining staff of the employee departure in an appropriate, respectful way. Do not go into the confidential details of the termination; however, do advise employees of the transition that will take place.
- Process all final payments and documentation owing to the employee.
- If the terminated employee has dealings with external parties, prepare communication to those parties.
Termination meetings are complicated and there are many issues to consider. Knowing how to conduct a termination meeting effectively requires preparation and careful consideration. Ensure that you consult with your employment legal counsel if you have any doubts regarding an employee termination. They would be best equipped to provide the most current, up-to-date information on your rights, responsibilities and obligations to employees.
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