The Termination Discussion – I’d Rather Step On A Lego

There are few things in my world of HR I like less than an investigation into employee unacceptable behavior. It’s one thing when someone steps outside of attendance policy or deliberately violates the code of conduct. It’s another when they have just overstepped common sense too frequently to allow their employment to continue. They become a distraction, a liability, and demand far more energy than they deserve.

I’ve had many of these final discussions. Most were preceded by other discussions about performance issues, inconsistent quality, or general behavior. Truthfully, a large percentage of them are completed without drama. The employee knew this was where things were headed. Each previous conversation was leading to this ultimate meeting where the badge is collected and the employee gets instructions on clearing out their things and how their final check will be delivered.

There will always be those situations that you have to do a little extra preparation for. Just as I used to have to carefully walk through the playroom in our house to avoid those plastic bricks that didn’t find their way back to the box, the discussion has potential to bring great discomfort to the HR leader or team leader guiding this meeting.

So here are some important things to consider.

  • Do you have security lined up? Seriously. There are times that you need to fully consider having someone outside the room in case there is cause for intervention. Depending on your situation, you may even have a uniformed security person there to help assure the employee finds their way off the property.
  • If there is a union involved, you should know what representation is required.
  • Capture everything said, and debrief with any other participants. Was there any sign of revenge? Is there any reason to believe the employee my take some sort of dangerous action toward himself or others? You should have at least one other person in the room who knows what to look for and just keeps their eyes on the employee.
  • Can you manage the meeting away from all other workers so there is not direct visibility? Can you do it off shift?
  • Rehearse. Really. Have answers to possible questions. Not just the questions about benefits and paycheck, but the challenges to your decision. You are not going to debate here, you have a message to deliver.
  • Give yourself some time afterward to document the meeting and get re-focused on the employees that do their job every day. That’s who you just supported.

Finally, remember this: Employees terminate themselves. You just help them close the deal.

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