Delivering The Termination Message

Top Tips For Delivering The Termination Message

Some losses in personnel are inevitable and should be expected, even encouraged. Leavers generate promotional prospects for existing employees and create the opportunity for you to introduce new blood to your business. Most of those losses will be decisions the employees themselves have made to move on but occasionally you will have to tell an employee that their period of employment with you has come to an end. Depending of the reasons which have led to you deciding that it’s time for an employee to leave your business there will be a different set of messages that you need to communicate. At the time of delivering the termination message you may be feeling angry, let down, upset or even be taking the employee’s actions personally. No matter how you are feeling the meeting doesn’t have to be uncomfortable and it definitely shouldn’t get out of control.

Follow my Nine Top Tips for delivering an efficient and professional termination message:

Before The Termination Meeting

  • Tip One: Communication is Key!

    This is the one-time surprises are not good. Employees deserve (and want!) to know on a regular basis how they are performing. Without proper feedback, employees cannot change what they are doing or how they are behaving. Remember: if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’re going to keep getting what you’ve always gotten!

    When it comes to disciplinary matters, with the exception of a Gross Misconduct situation, you will have taken your employee through a formal procedure. Making it clear to them at every stage that progression through the policy will ultimately lead to dismissal. Therefore, your employee should not be surprised that they have been invited to a meeting that could result in their dismissal. They will no doubt be a little put out that you’ve actually had the nerve to follow the procedure through to this stage, but the dismissal itself and the reason for it, should never come as a surprise.

  • Tip Two: Document, Document, Document!

    This is true for positive and negative situations and helps you if you have to justify terminating an employee’s contract.

    Dismissing an employee when they didn’t realise something was wrong and hadn’t had the chance to put things right would be deemed to be unfair by an Employment Tribunal.

    So when you have an informal chat with an employee follow the chat up with a written record of your discussion. This doesn’t have to be a lengthy document and could be hand written, the important points to include are: what’s gone wrong and what you expect the employee to do in order to fix the problem. Give the employee two copies for them to sign and then you keep one and they keep one so you are both clear about your expectations.

    You should have all these meeting records available for review at the termination meeting to further validate your decision.

  • Tip Three: Prepare for the Termination Meeting

    Ensure you understand the risks associated with terminations and are confident you are acting fairly and within the legal framework.

    It’s always a good idea to run your plans through with a 3rd party advisor, such as an HR Professional or lawyer, before you proceed with the meeting.

    Select a private, neutral meeting place, this shows the employee that you respect their privacy.

    Plan what you will say before the meeting, having a practice run with a confidential third party can really help.

    Keep the meeting short, stick to the reasons for the meeting and the outcome, keep control of the meeting with an agenda.

  • Tip Four: Have Support

    Always have a company representative with you when you chair a termination meeting, this could be a HR representative, another member of the management team or the employee’s direct supervisor.

During The Termination Meeting

  • Tip Five: Keep the Meeting Short

    Stick to the facts. Don’t get tangled up in a heated discussion and don’t engage in small talk. Make the reason for the termination clear and keep what you say short and simple.

    When I'm supporting managers with delivering the termination message, I always advise them to write down what they are going to say and then read it to the employee. This ensures that you stick to the point, don't miss anything out and don't get distracted or dragged into an emotionally charged discussion.

    In some circumstances, such as redundancy you can say the decision is final, non-negotiable, and has been unanimously agreed upon. However, if you are delivering the termination message at the end of a disciplinary hearing you will need to confirm the employee's right of appeal.

  • Tip Six: Company and Personal Belongings

    Most importantly for you will be collecting the company’s belongings, such as keys, ID cards etc.

    With regards to the employee's personal items, ask them if they would prefer to clear their desk now, return at a later time when the workplace is quieter or have their belongings sent to their home address.

    Most will want to clear their own desk, so have a box ready that they can use. Whilst I’m not suggesting you stand over them while they do this, I wouldn’t leave them totally alone either. If they work in a busy department, it would be a good idea to find a reason to clear everyone out for 5-10 minutes. Alternatively, arrange the termination meeting for a time when you know the department will be quite.

  • Tip Seven: Leaving the Premises

    Allow the employee a few minutes to compose themselves before leaving, especially if they have to walk past colleagues as they leave the premises.

    Discreetly follow the employee out of the building. This will reduce the chances of an outburst as they walk past colleagues and will keep disruption to a minimum.

After The Termination Meeting

  • Tip Eight: Don't Forget the Administration

    Confirm the dismissal in writing and send the final payslip and P45. If the payslip and P45 can be prepared straight away then they can be included with the confirmation letter but if they can't be prepared quickly then send the letter immediately and say the final payslip and P45 will follow at a later date.

    If the employee has benefits such as health insurance and pension schemes it would be helpful to forward details of how these will be affected by the termination. I recommend including details of your insurance broker and pension scheme provider in the confirmation of termination letter.

  • Tip Nine: Notify Other Employees

    A short verbal statement or email should be issued the following day to explain that the employee no longer works for the business.

    When explaining a dismissal to remaining staff always avoid mentioning the reasons for the dismissal. That information is confidential personnel information and should only be provided to those parties who have a particular need to know. For the most part, people only need to know that the person is no longer with the organisation, not the reasons why they have left.

    Here are some suggested words: "Please be advised that with effect from (insert date), (insert employee’s name) is no longer employed by (insert business name). Any inquiries that would have otherwise been handled by (insert employee’s name) should be directed to (insert employee’s name) until further notice."

    If asked specific questions about the reasons for the termination my advice is to say "they need to trust that you address any situation that you are aware of but also need to bear in mind that you honour the confidentiality of all employee’s and therefore cannot make any comment about any specific person or situation".

    This tells them that they will receive the same confidentiality if they experience difficulties. Mostly you are working to create an environment in which people feel problems and issues are addressed without violating the confidentiality of any employee.

There you have them: my Nine Top Tips to Termination Meetings. Hopefully you won’t have to use them too often.

But now you have the tools to conduct an efficient and professional termination meeting, not to mention, one with a lower risk of unfair dismissal claims.

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Top Tips For Delivering The Termination Message

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