I have been privy to thousands of corporate transitions, including my own, and in the process I have observed both good and bad behaviours from managers and employees. The impact of a termination for many of us is a defining moment – in an instant my finances, family and a million emotions flashed before me, all while I smiled and thanked the individual for the news. I know many people are thrilled with the news about their termination or have been waiting for a package, sometimes for years, but in my professional opinion if you did not choose to leave there is still a piece of you that feels the loss.
My experience has taught me that the majority of people conduct themselves in a very professional manner and walk out the door with their professional dignity intact. There is a small percentage of managers and employees that behave inappropriately and leave a lasting impression that can never be reversed.
I have seen employees scream, cry, threaten suicide and even become violent. On the other side, I have seen managers act cold and calculating using the termination meeting as a place to review all the wrongs the employee had done in the past to justify the termination.
My caution to managers and employees is to simply behave in a way that is professional, dignified and respectful during a termination meeting because after all the work you have done for a company, that is how you will be remembered.
Below are some best practices for both managers and employees during this life altering meeting:
- This is the last meeting the person will have with the company. Remember to treat them with the same respect they received during their first meeting.
- Keep the meeting brief and to the point. Do not forget your compassion.
- Remember, this meeting is not about you, therefore, regardless of your relationship with the employee it is time to keep your emotions in check.
- Allow the employee time to talk or show their emotions, if they cry hand them a Kleenex and sit quietly. It is your job to allow them to walk out of the room with dignity.
- Practice makes perfect. Prepare for the meeting and then prepare one more time; practice your brief, book a room for privacy, ensure the documentation is correct, double check details like the spelling of their name, be clear on next steps like– ‘when is the termination effective?’, who should they call if they have questions, etc.
- Listen with empathy to their concerns and questions and help them understand that although you may not have all of the answers that day, you will provide the answers after the documentation has been reviewed.
- No one remembers how you join a company, but everyone remembers how you leave
- The exit meeting is not the place to ask “why” or demand to know the reason you are being terminated. It is also not the time to demand to speak with the CEO or another executive. This demand will always be remembered and I assure you the executive team always knows when an employee is being terminated
- This is not the time to ask if you can go back to your desk to pack and say good bye to your colleagues. It only serves to make it difficult and awkward on everyone, including your friends.
- At the end of the meeting look the person in the eye, say thank you for the opportunity and shake their hand. It is time to leave the building. Remember, you will need these people in the near future for a reference, or simply for their good will about your brand.