Leading & Letting Go: A Manager's Guide for Terminations
Terminations are often emotional. Next to deaths in the family and divorce, psychologists have ranked them among life's most stressful events. If you are the manager delivering the bad news, this is likely the most difficult aspect of your job. It helps to be prepared ahead of time.
On May 28, G&A Partners presented the webinar, "Leading & Letting Go: A Manager's Guide for Terminations," to provide people leaders with a roadmap to conducting more "successful" terminations that will protect the company while also helping the terminated employee(s) recover faster from the trauma of losing their job.
Presenters included Michelle Mikesell, Vice President of Corporate HR for G&A; Sean O'Donnell, Director of Client Operations for G&A; and Steve Moore, G&A's Director of Process Innovation & Training. The trio discussed the do's and don'ts of conducting a successful termination meeting and gave managers tips on how to document everything leading up to and during the meeting. Preparation is critical.
"You've got to have well-documented coaching and you need to try to help the employee try to improve their performance," O'Donnell said. When you have the documentation, the termination will be less of a surprise to the employee, he said, and it will go a long way to preventing a wrongful termination lawsuit.
When should I schedule a termination meeting?
All three presenters agreed that the best time to terminate someone was at the beginning of the week and as close to the beginning of the month as possible because benefits are paid through the end of the month and this gives the employee some time to plan and make other arrangements. The beginning of the day, when fewer people are around, was also advised.
Mikesell cautioned managers to consider the employee's health (do they have a heart condition? Are they likely to be overwrought?) and their transportation mode before deciding on the time of day. If they take public transportation or are part of an employee vanpool, for example, they may have no way to leave after the meeting.
How should I prepare for the termination meeting?
When it comes to the actual termination meeting, Moore recommended following these three steps:
Deliver the message, then pause
Manage the reaction and listen for clues
Structure the next steps
Having a witness present at the termination meeting, in addition to the immediate supervisor who delivers the news, is also advised. Moore recommended the witness be someone from HR, so they could readily answer questions the outgoing employee may have.
If HR isn't available for this part of the meeting, O'Donnell recommends bringing in another leader at the company—but never a coworker of the employee as it would undermine confidentiality. Mikesell advised that witnesses be limited to one in number.
"A witness, yes, is a good idea," Mikesell said, "but you don’t need a panel of folks sitting across from the terminating employee."
O'Donnell and Mikesell roleplayed an example scenario with O'Donnel as the manager and Mikesell as the employee being terminated. O'Donnell kept calm and stuck to his script while Mikesell elected for her character to display anger and outrage over the decision. When they were done, they discussed how each responded in the scenario, reiterating the importance of practicing for the meeting ahead of time using the three-step process outlined above.
What happens when it's over?
Once the meeting has concluded, the presenters noted that it's important for managers to be visible and not hide in their office. Meet with your team and maintain a calm, somber attitude while you address concerns and reassure your team that you have an open door, they said. Most important of all, they recommend you maintain confidentiality and do not bad mouth the outgoing employee. This is a serious and somber event and should be treated as such.
"Just remember that we’re all people," Mikesell said. "You want to look out for the moral and the ethical obligations that you have with the separating employee and, at the same time, you want to make sure you’re looking out for the image of the company."
Watch the webinar below before you terminate another employee. It could save you from issues down the road and it will help you preserve a collegial relationship with your current and former employees.