Handling Employee Termination Meetings

For employers, the only thing harder than deciding to terminate an employee is breaking the bad news.  Studies show that firing an employee is one of the most difficult tasks a manager will ever have to do.  On top of that the same studies also show that how an employee’s termination is handled is often a factor in that person’s decision to sue a former employer.

What steps can you take to ensure the termination meeting is handled properly?

  • Hold the meeting somewhere private where confidentiality is maintained.
  • Before the meeting, review the documentation in the personnel file that led to the decision to terminate.  Review all steps that have been taken to help the employee before termination.  You also need to be ready to discuss what will happen moving forward. For example, when will the employee receive the final paycheck, how benefits are affected, and so on.  For employees that are being fired for gross misconduct make sure you have the details of the issue that is leading to termination.
  • Start the meeting by stating that you are terminating the employee as of a specific date.  It may seem harsh to start off like this but beginning the meeting with small talk or jokes just leads to the employee being caught off guard.  Make sure you are direct and focused in breaking the news.  This will help the employee realize the decision is final and not up for negotiation.
  • Explain the decision in a professional manner.  Do not feel like you have to justify your decision.  Simply state the reasons and leave it at that.  The employee may try to draw you into an argument.  Make sure you are circling back to your reasons already given and you aren’t being drawn into the emotions in the meeting.
  • Make sure that you have handled the paperwork in advance.  If possible, bring the employee’s final paycheck to the meeting and be prepared to review the items included.
  • Be prepared to help move the employee along.  Most employees will be confused or upset and you need to be prepared to finish the meeting.  Questions to think of to make this happen.
    • Is the employee leaving immediately?
    • How will they get their belongings?  Are they allowed back to their work area or will you send the items to them?
    • How will we get employer property back from the employee?
  • End the meeting on the most positive note possible.  Wish them good luck and assure them that the contact person they have been provided will be available to answer questions that come up.

Termination meetings are never easy to handle but following the above and being well prepared will help make these easier.   If you have any questions about employee terminations, when final paychecks are due or other human resource questions, please give our firm a call.

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