Look for "Red Flags."
Review each candidate's personnel file, and consult your own knowledge of individuals
to uncover any personal issues that could complicate the separation. For example:
- Does the person have any serious health problems?
- Have they recently bought a new home or made any large purchases?
- Is their spouse, partner, or significant-other out of work?
- Have they ever threatened or behaved violently?
- Have they mentioned lawyers or threatened litigation?
- Do you notice anything else unusual that could be a concern?
The Termination Meeting
A short meeting is best. It's hard to make the departing employee feel better by talking more.
In fact, like quicksand, the termination meeting may get worse as it gets longer.
A five-minute session is standard. Explain the termination in business terms.
For example: merger, duplication of skills, job elimination, that sort of thing.
Avoid personal performance issues, unless the termination is purely based upon performance.
There's no advantage to be gained by taking one last shot at a poor performer on the way out the door.
What if the candidate asks, "Why me?"
Return to the business reasons for the decision--duplication of skills, etc--
and shy away from personal attacks. If the candidate presses you for specifics, simply say,
"We can make an appointment to discuss this later, but my purpose today is simply to communicate the decision,
to explain your severance benefits, and to introduce you to the consultant who is here to help you find a new job."
Who should be in the meeting?
The manager explaining the termination (the candidate's boss), and the
human resources manager who will (1) serve as a witness, and
(2) explain the benefits and severance package.
Except in extreme cases, the outplacement consultant should not sit in on the termination
meeting. This detracts from their being seen as "the good guys."
Terminating One Person
- Find a suitable room for the discussion.
- Invite the candidate into the room with the line manager and the
human resources manager.
- Have the line manager explain the decision.
- Let the human resources manager pass out severance letter and
explain all benefits, collects keys, access cards, and security items.
- Bring the outplacement consultant into the room and make introductions.
- Leave the outplacement candidate and the consultant alone to talk.
(Their meeting will typically last 15 minutes to an hour.)
Important: It's far easier to bring the outplacement consultant into the
room where the termination was conducted than to try to move the candidate
to a new room, because newly-terminated employees can be angry and upset.
Terminating Several People on the Same Day
Use the same process as above, and schedule termination meetings
30 minutes to an hour apart
to allow the consultant to meet with each
Avoid group terminations if at all possible.
What if the candidate refuses to see the outplacement consultant?
Say, "I know you don't want to meet the consultant now, but please just
meet him or her long enough to get their card." A good consultant will
take it from there.
What about personal belongings?
Give the candidate a choice: "Do you want to get your personal things now,
or would you prefer to come back after hours when you'd have
If you want to come back later, you may call Mary Smith (name of manager)
for access to your office." In either case, a manager
or administrator usually stands by to assist and to be sure nothing
important is taken.