5 Tips for Navigating Employee Terminations

April 10, 2018


Letting an employee go can be one of the most difficult challenges a manager faces in his or her career. Given the potential emotional nature of the situation and the stress for everyone involved, many managers may feel they are ill-equipped to effectively handle the termination process. 

One way to help mitigate the need to let employees go actually begins in the recruiting phase. Hiring the right candidates who have the proper technical and communications skills is a critical first step in reducing the number of times a business finds itself in the position of needing to terminate an employee.

However, even companies with robust employee-selection processes may make a mistake and hire the wrong candidate. In fact, sometimes employees simply do not work out, and in those cases, termination may be unavoidable.

When termination is the only option, how should a manager best handle the situation? Below are five tips: 

1) Facilitate a dignified exit

Many people may derive a sense of identity or purpose from their jobs. For these employees, their career is more than just a paycheck. They may see their role at work as a way of contributing to the community or helping the world in some way.

Losing such a job may strip away that sense of purpose. All termination conversations should avoid comments or feedback that sound purposely hurtful or overly personal. Managers should instead focus the discussion on conveying the news, but letting the affected employee exit with his or her dignity intact.

2) Evaluate the timing

Treating the affected employee with respect should also include a consideration of timing. Notifying a worker of his or her termination on a Friday afternoon, for example, might allow an employee to depart more quietly.

Also, managers may want to consider the golden rule when letting someone go, and think about how they would wish to be treated if they were in a similar situation.

3) Consider the logistics

When faced with the need to dismiss an employee, the manager should consider the physical logistics. Will a supervisor clean out the employee’s area or will the employee be allowed to handle it? Will the former staff member be asked to leave immediately and escorted out of the building, or will he or she be given the opportunity to say a few goodbyes?

In organizations where telecommuting is an option, managers must also consider how to retrieve company-issued items that are used off-site, such as a laptop or cell phone. One possible option is to notify the employee on a Thursday so that he or she can return to the office the following day, return company items or materials, and retrieve personal belongings at the main office.

4) Control the conversation

Raising the topic of termination with an employee is never easy. Supervisors should manage the conversation as positively as possible, avoiding language that may lead to hard feelings or possible retaliation. A termination is also not the time or place to criticize an employee’s job performance; he or she should have been made aware of any issues long before (and also have been given opportunities to improve).

5) Ensure everyone’s safety

While the focus of a termination is on the affected employee, employers should also consider the safety and well being of other employees, including those directly and indirectly affected. Careful consideration should be given to the meeting location and its proximity to other employees and building exits. 

The meeting room should be private and away from earshot of others. Onsite security doesn’t have to be visibly present, but should be notified if an angry response is anticipated. Following the worker’s termination, employers should remain on alert if they suspect any lingering resentment may cause the person to return at a later date.

Terminating an employee is never a pleasant experience, but by following these guidelines, supervisors can help protect their company and prevent the termination from becoming a needlessly contentious conversation.

Eric Bonugli is a district manager and Kay Oder is a Certified Business Performance Advisor for Insperity. They are located in the company’s Austin office. Insperity, a trusted advisor to America’s best businesses for more than 31 years provides an array of human resources and business solutions designed to help improve business performance.

Kay Oder


Kay Oder has owned six companies, has been a resource to thousands to businesses and brought solutions to help business owners minimize risk, improve business performance and navigate today’s highly regulated and complex “business of being an employer”.

Today, Kay uses the insights gained throughout her career as a speaker, business owner and business advisor. Audiences enjoy her candid, informed perspective on HR related topics as well as her razor-sharp southern wit.

Kay is also a Certified Business Performance Advisor with Insperity, the $2.6 billion business performance solutions provider she has called home since 1993. Kay has consistently been among the company’s top producers during her 20 plus years with the organization, earning Insperity’s highest honors, including the Top Volume, Circle of Excellence and the Chairman’s Club awards.

Prior to Insperity, Kay was the President and Co-founder of Texas Valve Specialists, a supplier in the oil and gas industry. She has also owned companies in the construction, demolition, machining and promotional apparel arenas. She spent four years as a client of Insperity and upon selling her last venture, joined the Insperity team.

From an early age Kay demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit, beginning at age six when she sold cantaloupes from her parents’ front yard, which she offered three for fifty-cents, with a free puppy.

Kay and her husband, Dale, relocated to Austin from the Houston area in 1996 when a theft occurred in their family: their granddaughter was born and stole their hearts, so they had to follow.

Insperity, a trusted advisor to America’s best businesses for more than 30 years, provides an array of human resources and business solutions designed to help improve business performance. Insperity® Business Performance Advisors offer the most comprehensive suite of products and services available in the marketplace. Insperity delivers administrative relief, better benefits, reduced liabilities and a systematic way to improve productivity through its premier Workforce Optimization® solution. Additional company offerings include Human Capital Management, Payroll Services, Time and Attendance, Performance Management, Organizational Planning, Recruiting Services, Employment Screening, Financial Services, Expense Management, Retirement Services and Insurance Services. Insperity business performance solutions support more than 100,000 businesses with over 2 million employees. With 2016 revenues of $2.9 billion, Insperity operates in 61 offices throughout the United States. For more information, call 800-465-3800 or visit www.insperity.com.

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