How to Gently Let Go of an Employee

Firing a team member is one of the most challenging tasks for employers and managers. It’s a decision that should never be taken lightly and requires careful consideration, compassion, and adherence to legal and ethical guidelines. Letting go of an employee is not a day-to-day task and can be especially hard if the employee established good relationships with teammates. Here are a few tips to help the process go a bit smoother:

Reasons to terminate employment

Not every manager terminates employment for the same reason. But there are a couple of common factors that play into it: 

  • Poor performance
  • Consistently missed deadlines
  • Un-professionalism
  • A breach in company policy: discrimination or harassment
  • Not enough work for their position
  • Company downsizes

The Steps to Let Go of an Employee:

Issue warnings and performance reviews

There is a high likelihood the employee’s behavior is the cause for the termination. Mistakes are great learning opportunities, but if the same one is repeated, then chances are the behavior won’t change. Warnings and poor performance reviews are a few ways to push the employee into improving their weaker skills. If it continues, those reviews and warnings can be compiled as evidence to terminate employment. 

Get organized

Before initiating the termination process, it’s crucial to gather all the necessary information and conduct a thorough review of the employee’s behavior. This includes documenting instances of underperformance, policy violations, or any other justifiable reasons for termination. By having a comprehensive understanding of the situation, you can ensure that the decision is fair and well-supported. Plus, it is a chance to rehearse what you want to say to the employee so the first time you speak to them isn’t by reading off a piece of paper. Keep it short, to the point, and fair. 

Invite someone 

If possible, invite a coworker or HR personnel to be in the room with you during the meeting. They can witness the termination, but also provide moral support. The conversation is not easy and having someone else there to respond to questions or offer empathy can be helpful for everyone involved. 

Schedule an in-person meeting at the end of the day

No one likes to be broken up with over a text, so why terminate employment over the phone? Show your care and compassion by scheduling a private meeting room at the end of the day. It ensures there will be minimal distractions and the team member won’t be awkwardly leaving in the middle of working hours. If possible, try to schedule the meeting earlier in the week to allow them time to establish new contacts sooner. 

Cause and effect statements

Be prepared to discuss the reasons behind the termination, offering a few specific examples of cause and effect. For instance, “When the deadline on these projects were continually missed, we lost (insert percentage) of client retention due to your actions.” While it may be uncomfortable, informing them of the specifics can help them grow professionally in the future. Avoid too many “you” statements as it can feel like you’re listing everything they did wrong. 

Active listening with compassion

After you explain everything, the employee may be reeling with various emotions. The layoff should not come as a surprise, but it still is a life-changing event for any individual. Listen actively and allow them to express their thoughts and emotions. Show empathy and acknowledge their feelings while maintaining a respectful and supportive demeanor. Remember to stay calm through any negative verbal response and repeat your evidence if necessary. 

Transparent Answers

The employee may unfurl a series of questions. While you might not have the answer or can not respond to every question, it is important to give transparent responses. Providing excuses will only instill distrust and frustration. 

Provide support 

Letting go of an employee can leave them feeling vulnerable and uncertain about their future. As an employer, you can still provide support and resources to help ease the transition. Support can be in the form of severance packages, outplacement services, network opportunities, or providing referrals to potential job opportunities. By demonstrating that you genuinely care about their well-being, it is more likely the termination will end positively.

Retrieve company property & revoke security access

After the meeting, the employee should pack up their things with the help of a coworker they trust. As you are the barrier of bad news, they probably don’t want to spend any more time with you. The coworker can ensure that all company property is returned while gently offering emotional support. In the meantime, you can remove their access to emails, passwords, and security cards.

Inform the team

Only involve individuals who need to be informed and keep the details of the termination confidential. You don’t want people to gossip, but it’s also not fair to the employee who was terminated if everything they said to you was shared with the team. Additionally, adhere to company policies and legal requirements regarding final pay, benefits, and any other obligations. 

By following the best practices outlined above, you can plan a fair, transparent, and compassionate termination. However, if you would like insider tips from experienced leaders and managers, then consider contacting your fellow IAW community members! Thousands of professional women all around the globe connect and support each other through our community. Find out how you can access their vast knowledge and resources here

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