Today is the day. The decision to terminate an employee has been made and now you have to deliver the news. Before you step into that meeting, give some consideration to the impact this will have on your soon to be former employee. Once the correct legal process has taken place, help guide the individual as to immediate next steps. Remember to be kind and respectful.
Give them an opportunity to ask questions and recognize that it may take a bit of time for them to formulate any meaningful thoughts. They are likely in a state of shock and probably not able to focus.
Do they have medical or financial hardships that you know of?
If you are aware of any medical issues such as on-going prescriptions or physiotherapy sessions, opt to extend company benefits a bit longer than the required minimum to help “ease the pain” (pun intended). Consider building in a lump sum payment specifically earmarked for these needs. At the very least, provide the individual with solid information on affordable medical insurance packages that can be purchased personally such as brochures or a comprehensive list of website links. This is not only a decent and compassionate thing to do, but a strategically smart thing to do to head off potential liabilities around benefits during the notice period (see my past post on this issue).
Do they need help with future job prospects?
Don’t just suggest that you will give them a reference or recommendation – put it in writing. Provide them with a generic reference letter along with their severance package. Most likely their pride or embarrassment may prevent them from asking for it down the road.
Do they have a strong support system at home?
Your employee may be too distraught to drive home after receiving news of termination. You might suggest that they call a friend or family member to pick them up. You could offer to send them home in a taxi instead. It will be very difficult for them to simply pack up their personal belongings from their desk, accumulated over the years. Perhaps you could suggest they return on a specified date, possibly after hours, in the near future to do so. Or you might assign a friendly and compassionate co-worker to assist them.
Let them say goodbye.
Friendships that form in the workplace are often some of the strongest bonds. Give the individual the option to say goodbye to their close friends in a private setting, while keeping it brief. A hug and some reassurance may be just the thing they need to compose themselves before walking out the door.
Firing someone is always an unpleasant task. Keep it kind. When done right, dignity and mutual respect will remain intact. (And may save employers the costs and hostility of an inflamed and emotionally charged termination battle.)