Graceful and Humane Terminations

Oct 13, 2017

Terminations are never easy, but there are times when a graceful and humane termination is the best way to go, literally.

by Annie Reed, Founder, HR Annie Consulting



There are legal aspects to termination that we must all follow when we ask someone to leave our business. As important, however, is the way you let someone leave. Being respectful of the person, no matter the reason for the termination, makes good business and relationship sense.

Respect starts with honestly assessing the situation.

  • Are you spending the majority of your management time thinking about, working with, or being frustrated by one employee?
  • Are you have having doubts about your employee’s willingness or ability to do their assigned work?
  • Are you concerned about the behavior the employee is exhibiting while doing, or in some cases, not doing their work?

If you have a willing, but not able employee, consider the cost of the time needed, other employee’s morale and lost opportunities. Can you realistically change a failure to success without hurting your business or negatively impacting your other employees? Don’t be an unintentional rescuer.

If you have a situation where the employee is able, but not willing to meet the job’s expectations, the answer is clear, but not easy; they need to leave the company.

So let’s talk about a respectful termination.  Remember this is a time for you to step up and do the hard stuff of being the owner or the “boss”; you own the decision, be confident in it. One of the most respectful things you can offer a person that is failing, is honesty about the failure, so they can make a decision about their future with accurate and timely information from you.

For you to be confident in your decision, it is important to be prepared.

  • Use a termination checklist to make sure you have all the documents, final paycheck, return of company property and any information you need to convey about COBRA or other benefits as well as how you will or will not provide future references. In some states a letter of termination, stating the reason for the termination, is required.
  • Make an agenda for the termination meeting so you know what you are going to say and what you are not going to say. Don’t just go down the checklist, make the meeting items flow logically and caringly.
  • Conduct the termination meeting in a private setting where you will not be seen by others or be overheard.
  • Be calm and caring in your demeanor.  Lean slightly forward, keep your arms and hands open, and make normal eye contact, no matter how difficult it is to do.
  • Use “I” statements while telling the person about your decision to let them go. Keep from being accusatory.

Keep in mind the more concise and factual your statements, the clearer you are about the real issues involved. Don’t let unnecessary conversation lead to liability.

You can include instances of their efforts or contributions while letting them know that the full set of needs for the job was just not there. Keep your examples broad, Stay at the 10,000 foot level. Providing detailed, specific examples is distracting, can cause confusion or arguments, and keep you from the purpose of the meeting; which is in your opinion, their employment with your company is no longer working for you or the company.

Doing the right things for the right reasons in your business, and for the people that work with you, occurs when you treat others, including yourself, with respect. You are clearly demonstrating your values and beliefs regarding how people should be treated and how you conduct your business.

For more information or assistance with termination decisions, contact HR Annie Consulting. #HRisCool #BackgroundBrief #HRAnnieConsulting @HRAnnieConsulting

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