Loss of employment ranks right up there with other major life losses in terms of stress levels. This is true for everyone. Reactions and emotions may be further amplified depending on whether individuals have been through job loss before and what is going on in their lives at that particular moment. Separation, divorce, a sick child, a dying parent, or even a particularly challenging commute can all have adverse impacts on reactions to the “loss of job” news. Actual reactions may be completely unexpected or out of the norm.

How you and your organization handle employee exits will have tremendous organizational impacts on employment brand, productivity and engagement of remaining employees, and marketplace opinion. Planning is key. Here are some things to consider:

  1. When? Check for significant employee days such as birthdays and hiring anniversaries. Avoid those days if at all possible. Earlier in the day and earlier in the week are usually recommended; this allows the individual more time to process the news and gain access to their support network, including their Career Transition professional, legal counsel, and/or financial advisor. No matter what timing you choose, consider everyone involved and have a good business reason for your choice.
  2. What? Are you going to extend certain benefits including health, dental, life insurance, EFAP, and spending accounts? Are you going to provide options for diverting severance funds to an RSP or the following year for tax purposes? How have you calculated the severance offer? How are you going to handle outstanding bonus calculations, stock options, etc.?
  3. Where? While it’s usually best to notify an individual in their office for a variety of reasons (individual comfort level, logistics of gathering up immediate needs), there may be valid business and/or logistical reasons to use a boardroom, vacant office, or the notifying manager’s office. One such case is that the individual may not have an office. If the notification is elsewhere, how are they going to get personal belongings they need to get home (i.e. purse, car keys, jacket)? Will you allow them to go back to their space or will you need a “runner” to go and get them?
  4. Who? Who is going to deliver the message? It could be the immediate manager. Sometimes it’s better to go with someone at a more senior level or someone a little more detached from the situation. Is Human Resources going to be involved? Are you going to have a Career Transition professional onsite?
  5. How? What are the plans for exiting the employee off the premises? While the traditional exit involves an internal Human Resources person or an external Career Transition professional escorting the individual off the premises, some organizations are electing to go with a softer exit. This allows the individual to say some goodbyes, gather up their things, and exit by a prescribed time. This is often recognized as positive by both exiting and remaining employees.
  6. Remaining Employees: What is the messaging? Ensure all leaders have a consistent message. Plan out the logistics of notifying former co-workers and others in the organization about the departure. Face to face is best where possible. Ensure that everyone knows who they can go to if they have further questions. What about external contacts including suppliers, customers, etc.? Plan for communicating these messages.
  7. Seek Counsel: This can either be done during the planning phase or after setting a preliminary plan. In any case, it is an important step. Run your plan by an internal or external legal professional, Human Resources, and an external Career Transition professional. They are all experts in various aspects of employment terminations and may be able to suggest improvements to your plan.
  8. Logistics and Practice: Walk through the logistics with everyone involved. Notifying leaders need to practice the message delivery and understand the different emotions and questions that may arise. Write down the most important things you’re going to say.
  9. Notification: Stick to your script. Set the tone for the meeting by announcing at the very beginning that you have some bad news. Deliver the message and thank them for their contributions. It may seem cold, but you need to deliver the message, hand off to HR and/or a Career Transition professional, and leave. It’s not only about you. You want to minimize the risk that the individual may say or do something that they will regret later.

I hope this provides some points to consider when you have the difficult task of terminating an individual’s employment. For more specific details and recommendations, please contact Cenera for a complimentary copy of our “Manager’s Guide to the Termination Process”.

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