A Passion for People and Performance

Coaching on Terminating an Employee

It will always be difficult to terminate someone and may seem even more daunting if you are a new manager. That’s a natural reaction, especially if it’s someone you have worked with for a while. You know all about their personal situation, their health, and their family. Here are some things to keep in mind when having that conversation is inevitable.

Remember that poor performers terminate themselves and it shouldn’t be a surprise to them. You are a good manager and have (hopefully) had ongoing conversations with them regarding their poor performance. You’ve clearly communicated your expectations, you’ve trained them, you’ve spent time coaching them and followed through with a progressive discipline plan, yet the poor performance continued.

As a manager you have to remember what’s best for the company and what’s best for your team. More than likely the team has been shouldering an increased workload because of the poor performance of this one employee. It’s also usually better in the long run for the employee being terminated as well. Continuously struggling in a position without progress, is unlikely to help them advance down their ultimate career path.

Preparing for the termination meeting

  • Handle the situation professionally and respectfully.
    • The way the termination process is handled determines how an employee may react, so acting professionally allows the employee to take the news more calmly. This may mitigate the risk of them trying to take any legal action against the company or spreading negative feedback about the company to others.
  • Ensure you discuss items objectively and state facts of the situation and reasoning for termination.
  • Bring along the documentation proving that they were given warnings to improve performance and were alerted of the reasons that would result in termination.
    • Clearly give them all the facts and information to help them understand why they’re being dismissed.
  • Ensure that the employee understands that the decision is final.
  • Clearly explain what will happen next: pay, benefits, unused vacation time, references, outplacement, etc.
  • Listen to what the employee has to say and answer any questions they may have. Depending on the circumstance, you may give them brief advice on the job search process or direct them to their company’s Employee Assistance Program.
  • Acknowledge the four emotions people go through after being fired: Shock, denial, anger, and grief. This will give you a better understanding of what they are experiencing, and your response will be more effective.

Conducting the termination meeting

Have a short, bulleted list ready so you can hit the key points. The words you use should be direct and easy to understand. The decision has been made so you don’t want the meeting to linger. Always bring another manager or HR team member as a witness and share your list with them so they can assist as needed keeping the meeting on task.

A natural instinct is to say you’re sorry to someone you are terminating but you have to be confident in your decision and the communication of that decision. Consider instead, “I’m sorry that the situation has gotten to this point.”

After the meeting

Gather your team together to let them know that this employee is no longer with the company, without providing details. Use this opportunity to discuss a plan on how the next couple of weeks or months are going to go and ask for suggestions on how best to manage the workload. More than likely, as said earlier, the group was already handling some of the additional workload.

While it may get more comfortable with experience, terminations will never be an easy task. If it ever gets easy, it might be time to retire.

Written by
Stacey Payne