As you are enjoying your morning coffee, and mentally preparing for the day you decide to open your work e-mail and BAM there it is, an e-mail to (ALL) from an employee who was just released. The e-mail not only makes a case for why the termination was completely unfair and unjustified it also contains all the counseling reports and documentation on the employee. This type of thing happens more often than we would like to believe, since we are not able to put the toothpaste back in the tube we need to determine what to do next and look at how we can avoid this in the future.
Some leaders may be inclined to ignore it completely and hope that no one else will notice. This in my opinion is one of the worst strategies possible. The e-mail and the situation is going to be the gossip of the morning, and if this is not dealt with quickly and swiftly may penetrate deep and upset the culture for some time. This type of situation has the potential to pit line staff against leadership. The best thing to do is address this first thing in the morning with your team. In my experience, it is best to have a meeting with all the managers and supervisors and have a response prepared for them to present to their teams. Having the managers present to their individual teams will allow employees to ask questions and voice concerns in a space that they are comfortable. This will also provide the manager an opportunity at the end of the conversation to say, “Now that we have discussed it, can we agree to move forward and avoid hallway gossip?” If a team member is heard gossiping about it the manager can go to them and say, “I thought we all agreed to move forward and avoid gossiping about the situation. Was this your understanding and agreement as well?” This will provide some level of control and is a better tactic than having an all employee meeting with one person dictating to staff.
You may not always be able to avoid this from happening. However, here are some steps that may lessen the possibility:
Communicate with IT, give them a day and time when you want access eliminated. It is very easy for them to have this ready to go. This applies to all log in’s, passwords, any and all electronic access.
If your facility has key cards I would recommend having it disabled immediately as well. The employee may still feel compelled to send something to staff but they must do it from their personal e-mail and they may not have everyone’s work e-mail.
When a decision is made to terminate, do not put it off or give the employee the choice of finishing out the week or the day. Although you may feel you are doing them a favor this gives them time to make their case to others and just makes it uncomfortable for other staff members.
I have always paid the employee I am releasing through the end of the week or day but released them from their duties immediately.
Make every effort to limit the number of individuals that may witness the exit. I try to do these things at 5:00pm or after to limit the number of people in the building.
Above all else, be respectful of this employee, even though it did not work out they were a part of your team.
These types of situations can be challenging. However, if handled properly the release should have minimal impact on your team.