Letting an employee go, for whatever reason, is never pleasant, and the exercise can be difficult for managers. Fortunately, they can be prepared for and the various reactions anticipated, in order to favour a meeting that is as humane as possible.
The College of Certified Human Resources Professionals recently published a guide to assist employers and managers in the difficult situation of a dismissal. Titled “When You Have to Dismiss, Keep the Humane Side Central in the Process”, it gives practical advice on four themes that correspond to the four main chronological steps: preparation for the meeting, the meeting with the employee, the announcement of the departure to staff, and learning from the dismissal.
Step 1: preparing for the meeting
This is based on three pillars: the right people, the right place and the right time. The CHRP advises choosing who will participate (for example, the manager, a human resources manager and a union representative) and where and when the meeting will take place (preferably not the employee’s office or a time slot where he would not normally be in the workplace, in order to avoid further travel). You will also need to anticipate the emotions of the various participants and the reactions of the person let go, which can be violent.
Step 2: the meeting with the employee
According to the CHRP, the key to success is neutrality, both in the tone of your words and in your gestures. There is a risk that the employee will be stressed even before beginning the interview, so listen and plan for small details, such as a glass of water and tissues. Then, don’t forget to address the practical issues, such as the documents required, what happens to the employee’s personal effects, and how to recover material that belongs to the organization and return them to the departments concerned.
Step 3: announcing the departure to staff
Did you think the most delicate step would be the announcement directly to the person concerned? Think again: staff can be equally emotional, especially for close associates. Don’t let rumours spread. It is better for the news to come from you, as early as possible, in order to make things clear. Develop a communication plan, and make yourself available to answer any questions.
Step 4: learn from the dismissal
The process doesn’t stop there, the CHRP reminds us. You need to take advantage of this experience to be prepared for the next one. Did everything go as well as you could hope for? What could have been done differently? And, especially, why was this dismissal necessary? Did the person hired not match the position in the end? Should the selection process be reviewed? Was the situation managed quickly enough? The important thing is to avoid a repeat and, if it happens again anyway, to learn from any mistakes.