You’re a manager and you have finally realized that after months of coaching, retraining, and discussions that a member of your team just hasn’t responded to your efforts to become a better-performing employee. No one said letting an employee go during the holidays – or at any time, really – is easy.
Regardless of when or why it’s the how that matters most when releasing an employee from their position. Contrary to some opinions, business operations and empathy can intersect if you’re willing to take the steps.
How your company and your employee will feel about the situation can go one of many ways. If you let an employee go with compassion, it could alter the feeling in the room even before your terminated employee knows that they’ll be leaving the company. At the end of the day, it is two humans, sitting in a room together, discussing something that no one hopes to do or have happen to them. While compassion is a central theme to the holiday season, it should play a role in your termination process throughout the year.
Jeff Weiner, C.E.O. of LinkedIn, writes that “compassion is a more objective form of empathy. This idea of seeing things clearly through another person’s perspective can be invaluable when it comes to relating with others, particularly in tense work situations.”
While you aren’t in complete control of how your employee will react, you can do a few things to show more compassion and establish a better conversation.
Make sure your employee knows what was expected of them
Have you regularly had performance reviews with your employee? Did their job description reflect what they were required to do every day? Has your employee signed a performance improvement plan (PIP) or some other written notification that they needed to do better? Be sure to have these on hand and talk through where it worked and where it did not. At the end of the day, even if you are terminating an employee, your role of being a coach to that person is not over. By giving them the gift of valuable feedback throughout the process of letting them go, you’re allowing them to be better equipped for their next job.
While opinions vary on whether or not to discuss, in detail, what went wrong, providing your employee with this information will help them to better make this transition.
Plan the conversation before you have it
Try to schedule your conversation on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday before the end of your business day. This will allow your employee to immediately begin looking for work and allow them to take quickly arranged interviews.
Speak honestly and upfront. Tell your employee that you are letting them go from their position.
Then move the focus away from terminating an employee. Did your employee achieve anything great in their tenure at your company? Pair that with your appreciation of their soft skills and talk to them about what your company is thankful to have built with them. Have a dialog with your employee that celebrates their successes with your company and softly moves them in the right direction to begin finding their next position or career move.
Start and end your conversation on a positive note
While you ought to let your employee ask questions and process (or not process) what you’re going to tell them, make a point to outline your opening and closing statements.
Your tone is crucial, so be sure to take a thankful yet authoritative voice. Feel like you’re giving them an award instead of a sentence, but don’t let them think your decision to let them go could be persuaded otherwise.
While most terminated employees will feel the latter, once they have moved on to their next job, they almost always feel that their release from a job that wasn’t working was in their best interest. Chances are they too will feel like this day was a good day, just not in that moment.
Go the extra mile
Provide your employee information on their local unemployment office or connect them with a friend in recruiting at another company where their skills might be a better fit.
Do you follow them on social media? If they tweet or post a Facebook status about their search for work, retweet or share their post. Even writing them a recommendation on LinkedIn would be helpful and seen as going above and beyond.
Prepare a reference letter for your employee in advance if you’re letting the employee go under circumstances that allow for it. Not only did your conversation celebrate their successes, but now they have written proof of what you and your company thought about them and can use this to find their next job.
Just because there are many reasons they might not have worked out in your company, that doesn’t mean they won’t be a great fit elsewhere. Maybe they weren’t happy?
Raise respect and maintain morale by not making waves through the office
Close your conversation on a level of mutual respect by discussing ways that you can move through terminating an employee. A mutual understanding to keep heads high and profiles low will help you, your company, and your employee close this part of their career on a positive note and prevent explosive or divisive issues during the most wonderful time of the year.
If you can, let your team know in a way that includes the individual. Send a company email saying that after all of the great time you’ve spent with the employee, they will now be heading to a new adventure. Give them the dignity they need and deserve, despite not being the best fit for the position that they were in at the time.
We’re all human.