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A Manager's Role During a Termination Meeting

Deciding to terminate an employee is not a decision that is made lightly. However, when the decision is made, what is your responsibility as a manager?

It had been obvious for some time that no amount of coaching, counseling or training was improving the situation with an employee. The decision was made to terminate, and as Human Resources I was asked to be a part of the termination meeting. I prepared the paperwork, set up the meeting and provided appropriate guidance to the manager… or so I thought.

The manger was supposed to lead the conversation. Instead, the manger sat there in complete silence. I immediately took over the conversation, completed the termination and discovered some important lessons along the way.

1. Managers, Human Resources is there to support you during this process - not do it for you. Why, you may ask? As the manager, you are intimately familiar with the expectations that were not met, the ongoing conversations regarding performance and other areas of concern. Human Resources may be aware of some of the issues, but as a manager you have firsthand knowledge and can address any questions that may arise during the meeting.

2. Also, as the manager it is your responsibility to ensure that these decisions are kept confidential until the process is complete. There is no better way to undermine your credibility as a manager or the credibility of the organization than by telling your team that Joe is going to be terminated, but please do not share this information with anyone. As much as we would like to believe that information we share when using the word “confidential” stays confidential the employee rumor mill is alive and well. Imagine how you would feel if you found out through the rumor mill that you were being terminated.

3. I am sure we have all experienced employees gossiping around the circumstances surrounding someone’s exit. As managers, stop this gossip in its tracks. This negatively impacts culture and can often pit managers against staff. Redirect staff to the mission of your organization and guard against getting caught up in these unproductive conversations.

4. Once the termination is complete send out a notice to all staff, and appropriate external customers, that the employee is no longer with the organization. Make the notice short, respectful of the released employee and include a plan. For example, let individuals know who they should contact for their needs until the recently vacated position has been filled.

Even with a plan, mistakes happen and things sometimes do not get handled as eloquently as we would like. Having a plan in place should help to avoid painful terminations for both the employee and employer.

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