It’s one thing having all the procedures in place, but it’s another actually having to sit down and have the meeting to tell an employee that their services are no longer needed within the company. This week I focus on steps towards making the termination interview as smooth and controlled as possible in such a difficult situation for both parties.
Logistics of the Meeting
Environment and timing mean everything when it comes to holding a meeting as important as this. The most important things that should be considered are:
Where the meeting will be held – employers should aim to have the meeting in a neutral setting i.e. not in either employer or the employee’s office or even in public. If possible, employers should book a conference room within the building and ensure no one has booked the room immediately before or after the meeting. It’s important that the meeting does not have to be cut short because other people need the space.
Day and Time – this can be a tough one to decide on and very much depends on the type of business, however generally speaking; meetings should be scheduled for the middle of the week sometime after a lunch period. Mid-week meetings allow the employee to seek advice, legally or otherwise, instead of having to face the weekend not knowing how to proceed.
Length of meeting – why draw something out that neither party will enjoy? It’s imperative that the meeting is as concise and to the point as possible, no more than thirty minutes. If the employer has all the information necessary then the news and evidence can be delivered promptly.
Who is in the room – it’s always important for the person managing the interview to have a supervisor or HR person in the room. The additional person will serve as a witness and take notes of what is said by each party.
After the meeting – employers should consider what the employee will do after the meeting. Will they leave the workplace immediately or gather their work belongings etc. and take time to say goodbye to team members? It’s important that company policy is followed at this point and that the employee is made aware of the options. If the staff member is to carry out notice then they should be notified of the date they are to work to.
Emotions will be Running High
Employers should be emotionally prepare themselves for the meeting as well as expect the unexpected.
Taking time to mentally and emotionally prepare for firing a staff member is important as the employee may feed off feelings, such as weakness or anger. The employer must review staff notes and reasons for the termination before the meeting to ensure they know what they want to say and are definite in their stance.
Tensions will be running high and therefore employers need to be prepared for the employee to become defensive or argumentative and potentially have a number of questions. Going through the potential scenarios and thinking of how best to deal with them before the meetings begins will enable the employer to react and reply in a factual manner.
Some examples include the employee crying, not answering a question, demanding to speak to someone else, threatening the employer, not listening to what is being said. However, if the employer has followed procedures correctly, then the termination should not come as an outright surprise to the employee, as they will have previously been notified of warnings and therefore will hopefully not react in such a way.
Employees are People Too
No matter the reasons for the termination, employers have to remember that the employee is a person and will undoubtedly by upset with the news. It’s important that the person managing the meeting looks the employee in the eye and takes time to listen to queries and respond appropriately.
Sometimes we try to remove ourselves from a difficult position; however this can lead to shutting someone out and not respecting their feelings. Therefore, employers can’t let the unpleasantness of the situation over rule a professional attitude towards the situation.
Notice of termination should be mentioned within the first ten minutes so the employee knows why they are there and where they stand. This also gives adequate time for them to ask any questions. Trying to prolong the news will only cause more tension in the long run.
Clear Expectations are Key
Employers must ensure that any paperwork and wording used regarding termination is clear to the employee. Sometimes legal jargon can be confusing so going through the paperwork may be necessary. If the employee’s first language isn’t English then it may be worthwhile having paperwork translated so there are no future issues surrounding “miscommunication”.
Certain elements of the termination must be discussed in person and included in the paperwork. These include:
- The date from which the termination is effective
- The severance pay to be received by the employee
- Any remaining leave or bonuses applicable to the staff member
- When the last payment will be issued
- Support and services available to the employee to make the transition
As emotions will be running high, employers should follow up with a letter regarding the termination and include the points listed above. The employee may not be listening properly depending on what state they are in, and the letter further documents exactly what the company has committed to at the time of termination.
When the meeting is wrapping up, employers may feel a sense of relief and perhaps relax a bit more towards the employee. Whilst it’s important to end on a positive note, thanking the staff member for their contribution and wishing them luck in the future, employers MUST NOT try and soften the blow by saying they will help find the employee a job or that they will have no trouble in finding work. Being more relaxed can lead to over empathising, with perhaps employers stating that they feel bad about the termination or apologise. This is definitely not recommended as it can lead to mixed messages and make the situation worse.
Review and Move On
Once the meeting is over, the staff member who held the termination interview should review their performance and learn from it. Assessing the situation and discussing the outcome with colleagues will ensure valuable skills have been learnt for future situations.
The contents of this article are necessarily expressed in broad terms and limited to general information rather than detailed analyses or legal advice. Specialist professional advice should always be obtained to address legal and other issues arising in specific contexts.