Terminating: Plan for it! (Part 1 of a 3 Part series)

Termination: The act of dismissing one from employment.

A topic that is rarely talked about, and when it is, it’s faintly whispered, behind closed doors in coded language like “we need to release Jane” or “reorganize John’s role.”

As economic realties continue to test the resilience of many organizations, the way work gets done is being redefined, often times compelling management to make some very tough decisions.  And, while there are alternatives to termination (a topic for another article), the decision to Terminate should not be taken lightly and as such, deserves its rightful place around the planning table.

In these instances, it is increasingly critical for HR to be the voice of reason—in essence the organizations conscience—to ensure every aspect of the termination process is clearly and critically planned for.

As initial steps and before you take action, consider the “who”, “why” and “when” of the Termination event.

Who you terminate

Sounds simple enough, but surprisingly, I have discovered that in more cases than not, the ‘releasing’ manager is minimally familiar with the employee they managed – and in many instances, managed over a substantive period of time.  Consider:

  • how the event is likely to impact the employee–how might he/she react to the news? You may need to consider on-site support in the form of a Transition Coach to provide immediate and follow-up support.
  • how the employee typically travels to work–will he/she be in a position to get home, safely?  If not, this may mean making arrangements for a taxi chit.
  • if the employee has a family/social network–will he/she have access to personal support following the event?  If a Transition Coach is not provided, the employee may wish to confide in a family member/friend and/or a close colleague to feel a sense of belonging as the event typically results in feelings of alienation.


Why you terminate

Be clear and consistent around your decision to terminate.  Ensure the reason you cite verbally, aligns with what you have prepared in writing, so that if the organization is making changes as a result of a new strategic direction, your verbal message and your written message need to be singing from the same song sheet.  If you believe your reason to terminate is ‘cause’ related, you will be well advised to seek legal counsel to ensure you are appropriately positioned to terminate on ‘cause’ related grounds.  And of course, your lawyer will prudently guide you with the right language to verbalize.

When you terminate

Time of year, day of week and hour of day have the potential to impact the employee’s ability to successfully recover from the termination experience.  Consider time of year as it relates to the employee; avoid significant milestone dates, like the employee’s birthday, the employment anniversary date and the Christmas season.  Consider the day of week; it is commonly more agreeable to terminate on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.  Lastly, consider the hour of day when the incidence of peer interaction will be lowest immediately following the event.  The lunch hour for instance, gives the employee reasonable opportunity to exit the organization unnoticed.

Now, it’s important to note that ‘the plan’ is not always foolproof; these circumstances sometimes bring out the best and the worst of human behavior.  Nonetheless, I’m reminded of an old saying – if you fail to plan, you plan to fail!

The next part of this series will take a look at ways in which to prepare for the termination event.  Have you planned for a termination lately?

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