How to remain authentic when terminating an employee
Monday, June 12, 2017
Well-intentioned legal advice, fears of lawsuits and simply the awfulness of the conversation can leave many business leaders dreading terminations. Unfortunately, that often results in mediocre employees getting more chances than they deserve, which can have a negative effect on the rest of the office.
Here are some tips on how to face the idea of letting an employee go and ways to remain authentic during the termination.
Don't do me any favors
It may seem like smaller organizations are nimbler and therefore more efficient at conducting terminations than big companies, but often the opposite is true.
The relationships within many small employers are often longer, more personal or more complicated than those in larger companies. Further, in small organizations, there is no bureaucracy to hide behind and often no HR department to help with the termination.
Leaders and owners must address the unpleasant task on their own and face to face. Because of this, they often rationalize away the justifications or just flat-out avoid the issue.
Yet, while conducting a termination may seem awful, there are two good reasons to do it. First, not facing the immediate problem often creates a long-term, systemic issue because it sends the message that employees are not held accountable consistently and fairly. Second, being let go by an organization leader can be a benefit to the soon-to-be-ex-employee.
Terminations are tough, but the best way to make it easier for everyone is to do it respectfully. A great way to ensure fired employees feel they are being treated with dignity on their way out is if a leader sits with them and briefly explains the situation.
Thus, taking ownership of the conversation and clearly conveying professionalism during the termination will help the entire process proceed a little easier for everyone involved.
Short and sweet
With any termination, it is best to keep the conversation one-way and brief. This is not a meeting that should turn into a discussion or a walk down memory lane.
Leaders must fight the urge to fill the awkward silences by remembering that no one wants this to take a long time. Even for those employees who want to dive deep, need time to process or start crying, it is best for everyone that this not happen during the termination meeting.
The best thing to do to remain authentic and respectful is to prepare and practice what will be said. This includes how the employee may respond and most importantly how the meeting will end.
As the provider of the bad information, leaders must serve as a guide through a difficult situation by making it as quick and painless as possible.
Logistically, that translates to having paperwork in order and ready to be signed or taken home by the employee, a box of tissue hidden but readily accessible and a plan to address how the employee will leave the building. Personally, it means thinking through what we want the employee to take away from the conversation, what we think they will take away from it and aligning the two to convey it appropriately and succinctly.
For employees prone to crying, this might mean stating the same thing over and over again. For those who might get angry, it may mean staying extra calm and ensuring the logistics are perfect. In any case, preparing for what we want while keeping the employee perspective in mind will help ensure we get our message across and remain genuine.
The bottom line: While terminations may be difficult, they must be conducted. And to do so authentically, keep the meeting short, keep the employee's perspective in mind and prepare.
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