"Terminating employees should be handled with the same degree of professionalism and empathy as would be afforded critical communications efforts to other strategic audiences," said Linda Popky, president of Redwood Shores, CA-based strategic marketing firm Leverage2Market Associates. "Organizations often put more effort into planning facility modifications or providing supplier support processes than they do considering how to communicate with their own employees about such sensitive topics as terminations.
"An employee termination impacts not just the employee who is let go, but the manager, co-workers, and potentially customers or partners with whom the employee interacted. Poorly planned and executed terminations ripple through the organization, impacting the immediate workgroup and reflecting poorly on the organization’s brand—internally and externally. To avoid this, it’s important to not just document processes but communicate them effectively throughout the organization well before they are needed.
"Employees appreciate being treated fairly and equitably in a termination situation," Popky said. "I’ve actually had employees I’ve terminated come back afterwards and thank me for handling the process with dignity and sensitivity."
"As a global business consultant and former supply chain executive, I’ve seen that companies do a horrific job of terminating employees," points out Lisa Anderson, President of LMA Consulting Group, Inc. in Claremont, CA. "In my experience, 80% of the time, companies fail to terminate or even address poor performers. Instead, my best clients not only proactively address poor performance so that it’s never a surprise (which often results in dramatic turnarounds) but they also handle terminations with dignity and respect. This is not difficult to do after working with the employee to transform them into a contributing member of the team and determining, often jointly, that he/she is not a fit."
"Terminating an employee is never easy. Far too many people delay pulling the trigger; placing their company at risk and doing an injustice to their employees," states Shawn Casemore, Founder and President of Casemore and Co Incorporated, located near Toronto, ON.
"Termination should never come as a surprise! Front line leaders must provide a balance of both positive and negative feedback to employees on a consistent and individualized basis. More importantly this feedback must be provided in a in a face-to-face setting, the results of which will build both rapport and trust, the foundational elements of maximum team and individual performance."
Dr. Maynard Brusman is a San Francisco Bay Area executive coach and consulting psychologist. Maynard is the president of Working Resources, and an expert in executive coaching and leadership development.
Dr. Brusman notes: "Regardless of your company’s success or employee-friendly culture, difficult people pose challenges for managers and team leaders each day. You cannot afford to avoid dealing with difficult people. Whether they’re direct reports or peer managers, their frustrating behaviors will take a toll on your ability to manage others and produce stellar results. The more serious forms of difficult behavior are, in some ways, easier to deal with because they are blatant and often illegal. In cases of harassment, sabotage or physical threats, swiftly follow your clearly outlined company policies and implement the appropriate consequences."
"According to Dr. Brusman, Smart managers can develop a plan for managing problem behaviors in the workplace. This may include establishing policies and retaining employee assistance program counselors to help with serious problems. Inevitably, certain employees will behave in an unacceptable way, requiring you to call them in for a disciplinary conversation. Consider investing in a coach who can teach your people about human dynamics in the workplace. Discharge should be viewed as the failure of the process. Most people placed on a decision-making leave will return with a willingness to correct their behavior. When they do not, termination should be the inevitable consequence of that choice. Follow these procedures consistently to fulfill your ethical and legal obligations. You can then move intransigent employees out of the organization and move forward."